This week Florida’s Gulf Power said that it will soon start using drones to perform equipment assessments on overhead power lines.
The utility said that starting in mid-February, drones will be used to take photos of equipment along power lines in neighborhoods to proactively identify potential areas of concern before an outage occurs.
“Using drones to patrol our power lines will provide additional visibility into potential issues that may be undetectable to the naked eye, allowing our team to identify issues and make repairs before an outage occurs,” said Mike Spoor, vice president of power delivery for Gulf Power. “Taking advantage of this technology will help Gulf Power improve reliability for our customers in a less intrusive and more efficient manner.”
Drones can safely and quickly deliver high-quality photos and videos of power lines in a way that can minimize environmental impact and inconvenience for customers along power line routes, said the utility. Drones can also collect thermal images using infrared technology and assess vegetation encroachment.
Following a severe weather event, drones will also help Gulf Power assess damage in areas that are flooded or impassable due to fallen trees and debris so that in the case of power outages, it will be able to restore power safely and as quickly as possible, it said.
Gulf Power’s program is taking lessons learned from a similar program employed by Florida Power & Light Company, Gulf Power’s sister company. The drones will survey power lines throughout Gulf Power’s service area, from Pensacola to Fort Walton Beach to Panama City, in advance of storm hardening and reliability improvement projects. Gulf Power will be using Federal Aviation Administration approved drone pilots, who follow all FAA privacy and flight regulations. The contractors will patrol power lines during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday), will wear Gulf Power safety equipment and will display signs in the neighborhood where they are working. In addition, customers will be notified by a call to the phone number on file with Gulf Power with an automated voice recording days before the assessment takes place.