Suburban powerline EMF interference

Does anyone have experience with flying IRIS near suburban electrical power lines and transformers?  

There are many online videos of UAVs flying in suburban settings with visible utility poles and lines.

Since EMF attenuates rapidly with the square of the distance, what is the danger zone for flying an IRIS above, below, or along these utility lines.  

Also, what is a safe distance to launch and land.  Is 50 feet away from lines and transformers sufficient for establishing a good GPS lock.

Major concerns are the electromagnetic effects on the Pixhawk, the onboard compass, the GPS, and other onboard electronics,  Interference with the FlySky transmitter-receiver links can be tested before any flight attempts.

We have typical 60 Hz distribution line voltage at something like 7,200 volts running through the neighborhood on three wires (with a fourth ground wire lower on the pole) and a transformer drum every 50 yards or so.

Using a Trifield Meter the maximum Electric field readings were 500 volts/meter within 10 or 12 feet of the utility lines and 30 feet from the transformer drum.  Magnetic field readings were minimal, under 2 milligauss at the same locations. 

Trifield meter shows 500 volts per meter 10 ft under utility line 50 ft from transformer CIMG4662.jpg

Trifield Meter 26 volts per meter at launch site 50 ft from distribution lines and transformer CIMG4664.jpg

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  • yesterday , i was returning to launch , and when approaching the 240v lines , the drone suddenly decided to go down fast, and i crashed ton the wall of my garden.after this , it was still able to fly , so i made a 1 mn loiter flight in the garden 3m high     without any problem.

    May be my neighbour was doing some electric welding at that time...its 240 volts only , but electromagnetic field is produced by I , not V.As here in the Philippines the distribution is not balanced (240 , and GND) there is to counter field, that can reduce the field created by the hot line.

  • Guys, you need to consider what you're flying around.  The service to a house or barn is not something you need to be paranoid of.  That's only 240 volts, insulated, and firmly attached with a steel cable.  You're not going to experience any interference.  And hitting it would damage the drone long before it damaged the lines.

    The lines out on the street could be 1,000 volts, 30,000 volts etc.  The transmission lines on the towers are in the hundreds of thousands of volts.  Depends on what their purpose and design.  Get really close and I suppose you could being experiencing interference.  But you also have no business flying your multirotor up that close to begin with!  It's not like it is capable of cutting the wires.  It will just wreck the drone.  The problem is when your drone gets hung up between lines.  Congratulations, you've just caused a regional blackout.

    • Nope. You can experience interference from a 240 volt line. Furthermore, not all lines, (especially in rural areas) are shielded or installed up to modern standards. Just stay 15 or 20 feet away and you'll be fine. No paranoia involved. Besides, the original poster was asking about safe distance from residential lines typical in suburbia.
  • The reason not to fly close to power lines has nothing to do with interference but the danger and massive cost of the damage you could do if you fly into them by mistake. Its reckless and an unnecesary risk. Use some common sense and just stay away from them.

    • Of course you are entirely right, but there are also instances where it is not unreasonable. For example, a few weeks back I was filming a barn in Vermont (also doing a structure scan). Power to the barn was strung from the main line to a corner under the eave. Rather than declare the barn unfilmable and un-scannable, I simply avoided the power line by staying 15 to 20 feet away, safely beyond the range of interference. I know I could have gotten closer to the line without loosing control, but I didn't really need to.

      That's just one example. It's wise to avoid power lines all together, but it's equally wise to have a sense for how far away interference from power lines can reach. (Same goes for metal structures, like bridges, etc)
  • Well first I have to say that I avoid flying near power lines as much as possible. Now with that little disclaimer out of the way, here's my experience.

    Around suburban or rural power lines I've definetly noticed some odd behavior within 10 or 15 feet of the lines. Nothing drastic, just some drifting in loiter - no stick input from me and no wind so it should hold pretty still. In alt hold its the same thing. Drifting a few feet, changing direction, drifting some more.

    So my basic rule of thumb is to never get within 20 feet of suburban or rural power lines. Even though I think I could maintain control much closer, I just don't want to risk it. Obviously the safe distance will vary depending on the lines and how they are shielded, but 20 feet seems to work for me.

    Hope that helps.
    • I have noticed similar effects on my quads from distances under 4 meters from electric utility wires.
  • These issues are probably at the heart of the Amazon Air plan. They will need these considerations and secondary and tertiary redundancy for as many systems as possible.
  • The Iris+ has a shielded gps. Lining the entire top shell is an option granted that if you use copper you'll have make sure not to contact any connections. The have an electrical tape paint I've been interested in trying.
  • I read in a forum that folks are wrapping the PIX with Alum Foil to cut out the interference. I am thinking that an RF mesh would do a better job and allow for ventilation. I am looking into this even though I have not had any issues to date. 

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