Every day, researchers are discovering the potential uses of drones. Companies are also investing in the research to make drones more useful for their own business. Even the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has carried out test flights in order to ascertain the utility of drones in the assessment of any damage that could have occurred in the electric line.
There is strong evidence that drone technology can be used to keep electric utilities in peak operational condition. Drones can be equipped with payloads such as cameras and data gathering equipment to sense damage sustained by high power transmission lines in the event of a natural disaster, such as hurricanes or tornados.
The advantages of using drones to assess the damage will include:
· Timely information about a fault occurring in the transmission line
· Accurate assessment regarding the damage sustained by the transmission line
· Accurate assessment of the location of the damage
This will help the electric utilities to send the repair crew to the area that is experiencing the issue, allowing them to restore the power within a very short time period.
The potential of drones in electric utilities is immense and that has been already proven during the research by EPRI. However, one thing that still remains to be determined is the combination of the aircraft and payload that should be used to give the best results in this field.
There were two systems that were tested by EPRI namely Aeryon Scout and the Adaptive Flight Hornet Maxi. The common feature of these unmanned aerial systems is that they both are rotary wing systems. They both executed high resolution imaging of the components of the electrical system.
According to EPRI the task does not get finished by determining the best combination of aircraft and payload, instead the work starts from there. This is because the work of integrating the data and all the information that has been gathered using the UAS in accordance with the utility operations is far more complex.
There has to be a seamless interface with the utility information technology as well as development of the technology that helps the crew members in the field to analyze the data received and interpret the way it should be.
However, whether it is a government agency or a private firm, all have to obtain a special airworthiness certificate which is the only way to obtain permission for flying drones for operations such as those for an electric utility. The FAA has relaxed the rules a bit regarding the flying of drones, but for the safety of the general population the airworthiness certificate is not issued for all. The day is not very far when most electric utilities will be using drones for maintaining continuous supply of power to their consumers.
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