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article imageDrone technology helping utility companies

By Ken Hanly     Oct 21, 2017 in Technology
The power and utilities sector in the US faces numerous challenges as well as being on the verge of a digital revolution. Losses from network outages have been worth $169 billion.
Existing drone technology allows applications that can survey pre-construction and investment monitoring. as well as asset inventory and maintenance management surveillance. Drones could also monitor water quality, and management of vegetation.
Drones or UAVs in the energy sector could help improve power supply systems by inspection. Also water supply companies could introduce drones as a way of using innovative and cost effective solutions for monitoring water quality.
Due to increasing social pressure to reduce the use of fossil fuels and use renewable resources such as electrical power to power vehicles there is increasing demand for electricity. At the same time there is a demand that prices come down. Existing business models are also being challenged by distributed generation such as by solar panels on individual houses. The development of drone and other technology is helping industries deal with these problems.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Poland part of the huge accountancy and advisory firm network of companies claims: We have created an application that integrates, manages and delivers the drone collected data in one convenient, easy to use interface of a web browser. It is a tool for measuring and analysing geospatial data and also for integration with data from your company. The application is adjustable and modular, while the available image data in it is easily comparable as a result of its quantification. All operations, including data integration, conducted on cloud servers, which solves the problem of slowing down computers, laptops, tablets or smartphones. In addition, the data is securely stored in accordance with the strictest PwC data assurance.
PwC is network with firms in 157 countries in 743 locations. As of 2015, it employed 223,468 people spread throughout Asia, North America, and Western Europe. In 2017 fiscal year their revenue was $37.7 billion. PwC provides services to 422 out of the 500 Fortune 500 companies.
In August of 2016 the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) issued new laws to regulate commercial drones. Utility companies were quick to take advantage of the new rules. Chris Hickling of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) the trade group of investor-owned utilities in the US said: “We’ve certainly heard from our members that they’re excited about this technology. They see it as part of building a smarter infrastructure. We see it as an area that’s going to continue to grow.”
Westar Energy, the largest utility provider in Kansas, is one company among many that is increasing its use of drones for inspections. The company is turning to UAV's because they decrease risk, increase efficiency and also are less costly than other forms of inspection.
In the state of Florida, companies such as Florida Power and Light and Gulf Power are authorized by the FAA to use drones. The drones have high quality video cameras that can take photos and videos of difficult-to-reach areas. The drones cost about $6,000 each but they save money and no doubt worker's lives by reaching swampy areas and areas with downed trees. Gulf Power line engineer Jason Benton said a meeting in Fort Lauderdale: “Does it beat having somebody on the pole, maybe not. But you get a pretty good idea of what you need to do [to restore power.]”
The new technology helped companies restore power to consumers after the devastation created by, Irma, the recent hurricane that hit the state. The FAA issued 132 airspace authorizations after the storm. Drones are quickly becoming a game-changer and are bound to become more advanced and more used as time goes on. FAA administrator Michael Hurta said: “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the hurricane response will be looked back upon as a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country.”
More about drone technology, utility profitability, pricewaterhousecoopers
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