Utility Company Uses Drones for Power Line Inspections

Eversource is a utility company that provides electricity to over 1.2 million customers in about 149 cities and towns in Northwest America. They have recently begun using drones to inspect their electric lines in Connecticut. The company recently announced that it will start using drones for inspections in an effort to cut costs and reduce the environmental impact caused by the helicopters and trucks it was previously using. In a statement, the company said the drones will provide the company with a closer look at high-voltage infrastructure, including those in hard to reach remote areas.

Craig Hallstrom, the president of Regional Electric 0perations at Eversource, said that drones are proving to be useful since they offer a safer, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective way to inspect electrical lines, equipment, and structures. The high tech solution offered by drones provides a bird’s eye view, enabling the company’s staff to identify potential issues and solve them to ensure customers have the energy they need at all times.

An Eversource spokesman, Mr. Frank Poirot, said that they had contracted an outside firm to fly the drones. The operation is set to start in the Windham/Coventry area. In a press statement, Eversource said drones will only be flown by certified operators and will only be limited to inspecting the companies equipment. The privacy of nearby property owners will not be compromised.

By using drones, the company is able to decrease the need for routine inspections by low flying helicopters. This will lower costs significantly as well as reduce fossil fuel use, a major environmental bonus. Further, drones will help reduce the need for vehicles access for inspections in environmentally sensitive areas. Eversource is also planning to use the drones to assess storm damage. During emergencies, the company can launch a drone to collect damage information and instantly send it to their restoration team. By analyzing the drone’s video and photos of damaged areas will allow the utility company to quickly dispatch crews more accurately, establish repair priorities, and communicate accurate restoration information to its customers.

To date, the company has relied on infrared helicopters using heat sensing imaging equipment for inspecting high voltage electric equipment. The images helped the company identify potential problems and fix them before actual problems arise. Over the last few years, a few utility companies have been granted FAA approval to use unmanned drones for their routine inspections. The Department of Transportation in Connecticut has also experimented with drones to inspect their many roads, bridges, and other state infrastructures. As drone technology advances, it is expected that more companies, including private and public companies, will  begin using drones for their own inspections.

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