Proposed Drone Rules Could Revolutionize Grid Monitoring
Imagine a future in which automated drones have mini hangars atop telephone poles and fly the lines …
I am a droneman for the county and I fly the main road
Searchin’ in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin’ in the wire, I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita droneman is still on the line
New rules proposed by the Obama Administration could open unmanned flight to a variety of commercial uses, ultimately embracing a future where the small aircrafts help maintain power distribution lines, tend to crops or deliver packages.
But the potential to use drones - technically, “unmanned aircraft systems” (UAS) - has been a subject of interest in the utility industry for years. It’s a natural fit when utilities spend millions of dollars inspecting power lines which are elevated and often run in hard-to-reach places.
“Every time we fly [in a helicopter], it’s about $1,200 to fly a mile,” said Jamie Exon. The utility inspects more than 26,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines, but can purchase a drone for less than $20,000.