EEI to test drones – push for new legal framework
Despite visions of a future where drones remotely survey power lines, bringing cost savings and reliability to power customers, EEI said the bulk of inspections of transmission and distribution lines are done via helicopter or manually from the ground. BVLOS drone flights could provide “significant benefits by enabling a safe, efficient and fast method of inspection,” the group said.
“The safe use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems can help electric power companies improve the reliability, resiliency, and security of the power grid, which ultimately benefits electricity customers,” EEI Director of Government Relations Chris Hickling said in a statement.
The partnership with Sharper Shape will help the industry safely develop the use of BVLOS flights, EEI said, ultimately giving crews “yet another tool to quickly and efficiently inspect critical assets during routine maintenance and following a storm or natural disaster,” Hickling said. Several electric power companies are already flying unmanned aircraft systems within line of sight, he said, and EEI wants to work with FAA and other stakeholders to “expand these efforts as we work toward regulatory approval of BVLOS flights for our industry.”
San Diego Gas & Electric, Commonwealth Edison, Southern Co. and Xcel Energy. have all received approvals to monitor power assets via drone, but so far those early efforts have been limited to small programs executed while the drone is visible to operators. Continue reading about pushing for the new legal framework.