High voltage cable inspection


Have you ever wondered how they inspect high voltage cables without taking them out of service? Check out this video which offers a glimpse into the life of a professional high voltage cable inspector. There are parts of the job you’d expect—namely perching on the cable like a bird, trying to not fall off—but the part of the job you wouldn’t expect is the suit. This suit is made of 75% Nomex, to prevent it from catching fire, and 25% stainless steel thread, turning the suit into a wearable Faraday cage. Of course, because he’s got a Faraday cage mere millimeters from his skin, the cable inspector spends his workday surrounded by half a million volts.  To avoid electric shock, he equalizes the voltage potential between himself and the line before touching the cable.

Depending on your specific phobias, this video might make your job seem really dull… or really really safe.

[via Gizmodo]


  1. localroger says:

    It is worth watching the video for the last line. However, I wouldn’t want to have to wear the magic Nomex lined Faraday cage suit in very cold or hot weather — it’s a magic material that manages to neither insulate nor breathe, and even the relatively thin coveralls we have to wear at some chemical plants get unbearable at the wrong time of year.

  2. Marty says:

    … I expect that this job is probably safer than many others. take coal mining, for example,

  3. sly says:

    yeah… if you mess up, there’s minimal chance of surviving, but if you never mess up, you won’t die a slow and painful death from black lung.

  4. catface says:

    Yeah but it doesn’t look all that easy to mess up… as long as you stick to the rules (and make sure you’re always attached to something), it doesn’t look like accidents would be all that common.

  5. eric says:

    Sign Me Up!
    Looks peaceful, clean air & nice views.

  6. roosta says:

    good thinking eric. until it rains. cant see that job being much fun in the rain.

  7. Jack says:

    One of the coolest little video clips I can remember seeing. Thanks for sharing!

  8. epicelite says:

    This is a hack?

  9. epicelite says:

    Spam is worse then no actual hacks.


  10. Morgan says:

    I doubt they would even do this in the rain or snow, too difficult to fly level and to much chance of wind blowing the lines around, also arcing would increase if I am not mistaken on rainy and high humidity days.

  11. Grovenstien says:

    Amazing thanks for showing us another insight into the high voltage world!

    I remember working on a scaffold and it had a 3 phase line going right through it, shrouded of course! but live none the less i thought that was scary stuff but was told not to worry just dont touch it!

    Then the power company came rolling up and shouted get down. We then all promtly s@#t ourselfs! Thanks Boss!

  12. jeff says:

    In the first episode of ‘Britain from Above’ that aired this summer, they show, perhaps, the first stage of inspecting high voltage lines. An infrared camera in the helicopter shows where the hot spots are which are also where cables/connections are needing repair.

    The rest of that show is amazing as well and is worth checking out. [http://bit.ly/psja]

  13. Gert says:

    Sign me up.

    This is on my dreamjob list. I dont mind the rain and cold all that much. Danger? ugh this looks less dangerous than having to repair a 230VAC poweroutlet with the electricity still on.

  14. Wwhat says:

    I’m impressed by how good the pilot is, and how much confidence the guy has -and seemingly can have- in the pilot.

  15. JobSeekerInFlorida says:

    Anyone know where I can sign up for this (Or the employment requirements)? I’ve been job-hunting and this sounds okay. (It’s preferable then working at McD’s! )

  16. MrMstrd says:

    My question is how does he bring his [and the helicopter's] potential to earth when work is finished for the day.

  17. turdferguson says:

    What does it mean to “equalize the voltage potential between himself and the line”, when presumably what we’re talking about is AC lines?

  18. MrMstrd says:

    I wish I could “float”!

  19. mike says:

    “This is a hack?
    Posted at 8:49 pm on Jan 14th, 2009 by epicelite”

    Might not be a hack now, but if you could hack a “linebot” that could be launched from the helicopter (or better yet climb the towers) and run itself along the two wires without getting fried and transmit video, current, infrared video, wire temp, EMF, etc that WOULD BE a cool hack. Bet the utility companies would pay for that. Imagine it would be cheaper and more accurate than having some guy crawl along two wires bouncing around 500′ in the air.

    Wonder what he keeps in the bag that he pulls along behind him? His lunch?

  20. 277480 says:

    jobseeker: This is a very specialized/small area in the field of lined maintenance and construction.
    You can find some info at njatc.org., or search for the I.B.E.W local nearest you that deals with transmission,distribution,utility, etc. Due to the nature of the work, where you live greatly impacts what you will do, should you enter into such a career. I live in a big city and primarily do URD (underground residential distribution) and am usually splicing cable on 4Kv, 12Kv, and 34Kv systems, and most of that is lead splicing (as in solder).

    mrmstrd: huh?

    turdferguson: huh?

    mike: they have it…….it’s called Scada, the purpose of the guy on the wire is to repair/replace spacers….usually.

  21. Orv says:

    I’ve heard that the main danger in this job isn’t actually electrocution — it’s crashing. Flying helicopters close to wires is perilous work.

  22. crobicha says:

    Cool little video, thanks for posting it.

  23. csirac2 says:

    turdferguson: You’ll notice the arc keeps running, it doesn’t just spark once and then stop, as if you were dealing with a static/DC situation. So I assume they just want the helicopter connected electrically as an extension of the transmission line conductor.

    I can’t imagine there’d be a lot of current there, but even a hovering chunk of metal is going to provide some amount of reactive resistance to being equalised with an AC line of that voltage.

    Unless of course they’re attaching themselves to an AC line that’s been tuned to contain a standing wave… hmm.

  24. sam says:

    “as long as the helicopter is isolated from ground, we have the ability to bring ourselves to the same voltage potential as the line” maybe i’m missing something but doesn’t that make no sense at all for AC?

  25. Bruno says:

    Here in Brazil we actually use fiberglass structures. Safe and stable.. Helicopters are just for an eye inspection..

  26. Apret says:

    I think the best bit is the posters name “Strom” which might be an anglicisation of the nordic name Ström which can be translated to english as ‘current’! :)

  27. Keytops says:

    It’s DJ Strom, Strom is his real name (that his mom gave him); one of the best 80s DJs around BTW. If you look it’s filed unter “wearable hacks” (wearable faraday cage). It’s not a hack how-to like most posts but it is a demonstration of a cool hack to avoid being burned till your body seases to conduct high voltage. It’s not spam, chill out…

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