A drone stuck on a power line over Lake Union for nearly a week came down Saturday, at a cost of nearly $35,000.
A drone stuck in a power line over Lake Union’s Mallard Cove for nearly a week came down Saturday, at a cost of nearly $35,000to Seattle City Light.
The drone had become a nuisance to the houseboat tenants in Mallard Cove because of a loud buzzing it created hanging off the 115,000-volt transmission line — and it also decreased the efficiency of the line, said Seattle City Light spokesman Scott Thomsen.
But getting it down was not as simple as driving a bucket truck underneath the line and plucking off the drone, since the power lines are 120 feet in the air above Lake Union houseboats.
“We don’t tend to do much work above the water — that is one of the things that made this a particularly unusual job,” Thomsen said.
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Before recovering the drone, City Light had to shut off the power running through the transmission line and reroute it to another area, then rent a “transmission line carriage” — a basket that can hang on power lines — and put it in place.
The crew started setting up before 8 a.m. Saturday and had a safety meeting at 9 a.m. To reach the drone, two line workers got in the basket and pulled themselves 100 yards along the power line. The job of retrieving the drone was done by about 10:30 a.m., to the delight of the neighborhood.
“When they got it off there, a cheer went up,” said Gifford Jones, 77, who has lived on a houseboat in Mallard Cove with his wife for 25 years.
Jones said he was bothered by the idea of a drone flying by their home, believing it was more than likely equipped with a camera. However, more concerning to him was the buzzing noise and the glow the drone gave off at night. Jones also was worried the drone might burn up, fall onto his neighbor’s roof and cause a fire.
“It could have been someone engaged in peeping-Tom activities,” he said of whoever was operating the drone. “But, it became a safety concern.”
While City Light has had to retrieve many kites from power lines over the years, Thomsen said this was the first drone, and the task was made more complicated because the tiny aircraft was stuck in a taller, higher-voltage transmission line rather than the shorter, lower-voltage lines that carry power into homes.
“It is not a simple operation when you are dealing with high-voltage electric line,” Thomsen said.
Watching Saturday’s events unfold, Jones said he knew the job must have cost City Light “quite a bit of money” because there were eight line workers and a fleet of trucks and service vehicles. But when he asked workers what it was costing, he didn’t expect $35,000.
“That is a staggering sum of money — all for the benefit of the liberty to fly some toy around in an environment where it doesn’t belong,” he said.
City Light offered a reminder to people who might be flying remote-controlled helicopters, kites or even drones, to always be aware of their surroundings.
“Look up. If there are power lines in the area, stay away from them because it is not safe for you or safe for people around you,” Thomsen said. “It could cause a power outage or worse.”
Seattle police took custody of the drone, hoping to find out who owns it. Police spokesman Patrick Michaud said the department will check to see if there was any violation of Federal Aviation Administration rules.