Over the past few months, drones and divers from Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Inspection and Reactor Innovation (IRI) division have been deployed at numerous hydroelectric facilities to get a closer look at equipment, make repairs, and help ensure their continued smooth operation.

Recently, at R.H. Saunders Generating Station (GS), an indoor drone called Elios 2 was utilized to fly inside one of the runners at the station. The drone was carefully flown down into a dewatered section of Saunders’ Unit 8 to capture video of the underside of the turbine blades to look for any signs of degradation.

“This type of inspection would’ve taken a week to get set up in the traditional manner with scaffolding. But the drone did the same job in one day, saving time and money, and improving safety for OPG’s workers,” said Stephen McGilvray, First Line Manager with IRI’s RPAS Operations.

Another similar inspection is planned for Otter Rapids GS as a drone is set to manoeuvre inside one of the station’s penstocks.

Elsewhere, drones were utilized to help capture visuals at Calabogie hydroelectric station, which is undergoing redevelopment, and inspect OPG work sites in the Campbellford area for falling concrete and other debris.

At the Waba Dam near Arnprior GS, a specialized drone equipped with LiDAR equipment was deployed with the help of Mohawk College to cut through vegetation covering the sprawling earth dam to get a clearer view. These images were used to help prepare for the dam’s recently completed renewal project.

OPG’s team of skilled divers has also been keeping busy. Divers have spent at least eight weeks at R.H. Saunders GS, doing numerous jobs, including switching out valves in the station’s scroll cases – the spiral-shaped steel intake that guides water flow into the turbine – and completing a 32-gate inspection of the Iroquois Control Dam.

Last year, the dive team was tasked with an unusual assignment to remove a stuck log in a runner at one of the units at Saunders. A diver was able to safely cut the log with a chainsaw while underwater, which saved maintenance staff from dewatering the unit.

The dive team performed a similar operation last fall as they removed a log from one of the wicket gates at the station.

Additionally, the team employs a fleet of small subs, or remotely operated vehicles (ROV), to get a closer look in underwater areas that are too hazardous or hard-to-reach for divers.

Pilots with OPG's IRI division prepare a drone for take off at Merrickville Generating Station. Image and text courtesy OPG