T&D World Magazine

Drones: The Next Frontier in Utility Operations

Unmanned aerial vehicles can help electric utilities to save money, improve reliability, and enhance safety when used in select applications.

Arizona Public Service, as well as many other utilities in the United States, are trying out "unmanned aerial vehicles," or drones (the more common term), to increase safety, improve efficiency and reduce costs. APS reached out to one of the few U.S. DAS Consultants/Providers; Industrial Aerobotics, for help in assessing, scoping and costing each of the six scenarios.

By using aerial robots, bulk electric system crews can work safer and quicker, and the onboard data-capture payloads allow for additional benefits long after the initial inspection effort is complete. Instead of deploying a bucket truck or climbing a pole, crews are able use UAVs to quickly put eyes on assets to make decisions on how to proceed. Real-time images and video can be relayed to utility operation centers for additional perspectives or concurrence on a plan of action. Data can then be stored and used for comparison analysis against previous or future images as well as be shared with planning and preventative maintenance groups.

Following are images of APS's field trials of drones for several applications, including overhead line inspections, solar field inspections and substation imagery. The results and APS's plans for the future will be published in an upcoming issue of Transmission & Distribution World magazine.

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