Utilities companies could soon be among the largest customers of the drone market. In April, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the largest public power company in the US, and Ontario Power Generation (LON: OPG) first tested power line using a drone. The purpose of this exercise was to enable the collection of data in order to launch a program of inspections of their facilities by drone.
In July 2014, Sempra’s San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) (NYSE: SRE) was the first US company to obtain an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) authorization to launch a drone program for the inspection of its power lines. To date, SDG&E has a fully functional program monitoring its facilities with InstantEye, a four-engine drone weighing less than one pound and equipped with a camera. A pilot controls the drone remotely and is able to have an aerial view through the camera, which allows him to spot problems if there are any.
The introduction of drones has several positive contributions for Utilities companies. First of all, these allow better data collection, since the image captured by their camera can be recorded and stored in a database. They also make it possible to reach less accessible places, thus speeding up operations and reducing costs for companies. Indeed, it has been shown that a drone program allows a company to save an average of 50% on its maintenance costs. Finally, drones allow for safer inspection, as employees performing inspections can remain on the ground, thus avoiding fatal accidents.
Los Angeles Times. (2014). Sempra Energy gets FAA approval to test drones for San Diego utility. Retrieved from: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-drones-utilities-20140712-story.html
Watertown Daily Times. (2017). NYPA, Ontario Power Generation test capabilities of drone for future Power Authority use. Retrieved from: http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/news05/nypa-ontario-power-generation-test-capabilities-of-drone-for-future-power-authority-use-20170307
Edgy Labs. (2017). Drones Help Utilities Cope and Restore Service post-Natural Disasters. Retrieved from: https://edgylabs.com/drones-help-utilities-cope-with-the-times-and-restore-service-post-natural-disasters