Friday, August 21, 2015

Duke Energy testing feasibility of using drones to inspect power lines, solar farms

Duke Energy, which in June received an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, could soon be using unmanned aerial vehicles to inspect power lines and solar farms if test runs prove successful, Clayton Hanson reports for The Charlotte Observer.

Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless told Hanson, “What we’re really doing is testing the technology to see what kind of application it would have for Duke Energy. Right now we’re finding that surveying transmission lines and looking at the panels on a solar farm can make repairs cheaper and faster. A drone would be able to look and tally up how many poles we need and what kind of wire we need. That way we could make repairs quicker, rather than have someone go there by foot or in a helicopter.”

Duke is working with a contractor, AeroVironment, which has a blanket permit from FAA to fly drones up to 200 feet, Hanson writes. "The fixed-wing aircraft ranges from 13 to 15.5 pounds and takes off from an incline ramp. At a demonstration Wednesday, the drone’s engine emitted a high-pitched sound that could be heard several hundred feet away. Aleksander Vukojevic of Duke, told Hanson, “We’re looking at three things: how safely the flights are compared to what we do today, what is the operational efficiency and is there a business case." (Read more)

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