PPL Electric Utilities is one of the first U.S. utility companies to receive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to operate a drone, or unmanned aerial system. A team of drone experts at PPL are now in the early stages of implementing the technology to perform routine line inspections on more than 48,000 miles of power lines and 400 substations throughout the company’s service territory in Pennsylvania.
The utility has made great strides in increasing reliability for its customers, improving 20 percent since 2007. Another 20 percent improvement is being eyed in the coming five years and the drones will play a role in helping us get there.
The use of drones is soaring - with new technology and uses discovered almost daily. Economists now estimate that more than 15,000 drones are sold each month. While private use is still being debated and regulatory models are being developed, waivers from the FAA provide a window for commercial applications to take off in agriculture, public safety and inspection and maintenance.
PPL Electric Utilities is at the forefront of the trend to find value in the commercial use of drones for the utility industry.
Some of the early benefits of drone technology that the company is investigating:
- Quicker deployment, more efficient inspection and maintenance work of transmission and distribution power lines.
- Potential to be safer for post-storm restoration surveillance and inspection.