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Duke Experiments with Tree-Trimming by Helicopter

Duke Energy is experimenting with an air assault on trees that clog power lines in rural McDowell County. A saw-like device suspended from a hovering helicopter has so far proven far faster and more efficient than the traditional method of trimming trees from below. In one day, the helicopter can cover four to five miles of line, says Duke spokeswoman Betsy Conway. "It's best for these mountainous areas where it's very hard to get in on the ground," adds Conway. "But certainly we will be exploring using this technique across our service area." Even with a helicopter doing the heavy work, Conway says Duke Energy puts crews on the ground to clear debris and ensure safety. But the possibility of aerial tree-trimming, is encouraging to property owners who routinely complain about the sometimes heavy-handed nature of Duke's ground-based tree management. This three-week experiment in McDowell County is Duke's first foray into helicopter trimming around smaller lines that spider through communities and distribute electricity to homes.