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Drones, Tools Not Toys

After Tropical Storm Harvey hit and restoration efforts went into action, drones were utilized to assess and report the devastating effects.  Sharper Shape sent three crews to evaluate the condition of transmission lines and aid local utilities with power restoration.  Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are an indisputable resource in the energy sector but especially after a weather related outage.  Drones are not hindered by downed trees or flooded roads, instead they are a proven asset, providing utilities real time progress of restoration via live streaming video.  

Paul Frey of Sharper Shape, spoke with me briefly while attending The Edison Electric Institute Transmission Distribution Metering and Mutual Assistance Conference in Houston, Texas. He is eager to share this innovation with Utility companies across the country.  The benefits of UAS after a hurricane or earthquake are obvious but are they necessary when it’s business as usual?  Sharper Shape is a software and analytics company providing Transmission Line Constructions, Solar and Wind, Consolidated Linear Inspections and Vegetation Management to name a few.  

With safety and tight profit margins as their utmost concern, utilities are slowly coming around to the idea.  Indiana Michigan Power is embarking on a pilot program using drones to check power lines and utility towers. Drones are able to see connection points underneath components not just from the top down.  Flight plans are also created in advance, providing an autonomous preprogrammed mission that can detect and avoid obstacles.  

Michael Hartnack, a research analyst at Navigant Research states, “The continued implementation of pilot programs for drones and robotics will push regulators to allow expanded programs and drive investment into new technology, and it is this new technology that will enable utilities to remove the human element.”

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