Drone technology is rapidly evolving to the point where it is now possible to utilize drones for outage restoration purposes. It’s pretty amazing how far we have come regarding drone technology – and how quickly.
In the four years since Jeff Bezos announced Amazon’s delivery drone strategy to the world on 60 Minutes, the word drone is now part of the daily nomenclature of life, and utility companies all across the globe are experimenting with using drones within their daily operations. And in 2017, for the first time, drones actually began helping utilities with restoration efforts, thanks in large part to FAA regulations introduced in 2016 that removed preexisting regulatory barriers to drone usage.
The Role of Drone Technology in Recovery Efforts
I found an excellent article about how drones helped Florida utilities recover from Hurricane Irma. The drones essentially handled the damage assessment phase of the Irma recovery effort, especially in the Florida Keys, which were inaccessible in the aftermath of the storm. This enabled crews to hone in on specific areas of damage to more efficiently plan the restoration work, without even leaving the office or having to deploy a helicopter.
Interestingly, some utilities purchase their own drones, whereas others utilize the services of one of the many companies popping up that maintain drone fleets for hire. These outsource providers not only deploy drones “on demand” for recovery purposes, but they can also utilize their fleets to conduct periodic and automatic infrastructure inspections for maintenance purposes.
The bottom line is that drone technology is here to stay, so it makes sense to leverage it to the extent possible to improve operational efficiency. This will help streamline emergency planning as well as recovery, and should even help improve safety metrics as well. Sounds like a no-brainer to me – it’s drone technology or bust, baby!