Conventional stereo vision algorithms suffer from high levels of hardware resource utilization due to algorithm complexity, or poor levels of accuracy caused by inadequacies in the matching algorithm. To address these issues, we have proposed a stereo range-finding technique that produces an excellent balance between cost, matching accuracy and real-time performance, for power line inspection using UAV. This was achieved through the introduction of a special image preprocessing algorithm and a weighted local stereo matching algorithm, as well as the design of a corresponding hardware architecture. Stereo vision systems based on this technique have a lower level of resource usage and also a higher level of matching accuracy following hardware acceleration. To validate the effectiveness of our technique, a stereo vision system based on our improved algorithms were implemented using the Spartan 6 FPGA. In comparative experiments, it was shown that the system using the improved algorithms outperformed the system based on the unimproved algorithms, in terms of resource utilization and matching accuracy. In particular, Block RAM usage was reduced by 19%, and the improved system was also able to output range-finding data in real time.