All-female arborist crew harnesses LiDAR tech to ensure reliable service
March 25, 2024
An image of FPL arborists Carolina Olivera, Erin Schreck and Olivia Johnson

Lauderhill, Fla. - In sunny Florida, amid the tall palm trees and lush greenery that defines the tropical paradise, an all-female arborist team is making waves in a field that does not attract many women. 

Carolina Olivera, Erin Schreck and Olivia Johnson are the first group of female arborists at Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). They’re part of a team beginning to use the most advanced state-of-the-art tech: Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology. 

“We’re currently at the forefront of the most innovative tech,” Schreck said. “It’s amazing to work with this technology in a company that’s leading the industry. No other utility is performing multiple comprehensive LiDAR collections like we are.” 

One of the leading causes of power outages is trees and other vegetation hitting power lines. This new system uses LiDAR, a laser-scanning technology that precisely maps the surrounding environment in 3D, alongside satellite imagery and photogrammetry, which creates 3D models from overlapping images. 

This comprehensive understanding of how plants and trees are positioned along the company’s power lines helps FPL proactively maintain the energy grid and vegetation growing near it. The “smart trimming” technology allows the company to trim more effectively and efficiently year-round and restore power faster following a storm. 

“FPL is always looking for tools and technology to help keep power lines clear so we can safely deliver reliable service to our customers, in good weather and bad,” said Olivera. “LiDAR provides invaluable insights, especially in areas that are flooded or impassable, giving our crews the information they need to work safely and quickly."

 

FPL delivered the most reliable service in its history in 2023, according to a recent report the company filed with the Florida Public Service Commission. The company credited this feat to sustained investments and continuous efforts to improve the energy grid – through stronger infrastructure, smart grid technology and innovative technology. 

This included LiDAR, which helped FPL’s vegetation management team be more surgical in the way work is identified and executed.  

Historically, FPL arborists relied on paper maps, foot patrols and field notes for the approximate 50,000 miles of overhead power lines in its service territory, which span 43 counties and two time zones.

Now, smart trimming processes allow work to be scoped, scheduled and issued to a tree crew in exact areas - all from a remote location.  

During hurricane season, the all-female arborist team leverages LiDAR's capabilities to assess damage swiftly and accurately. With before and after comparative views, the team visualizes the severity of change caused by storms, enabling informed decision-making in power restoration efforts.  

“Our culture prioritizes innovation and continuous improvement to better serve our customers," Johnson said. "LiDAR technology is not just about managing vegetation, it's about ensuring that our customers receive reliable power, regardless of the weather conditions."