October 5, 2020 Home
In the past decade, there has been a great increase in the number of objects flying around in the sky – smaller objects. We don’t see drones that much here in Hancock County, but they are around and will most likely become more common.
Maybe you know someone with a drone who just enjoys the fun of flying it over their property or along a river and viewing the results on a screen. More and more farmers are using drones to look at their crops or keep track of their cattle. Drones are a major part of TV news coverage (often replacing helicopters) to report on natural disasters, active crime scenes, and traffic incidents.
As of July 31, 2020, there were 481,848 commercial drones and 1,188,045 recreational drones. There are 187,355 remote pilots certified by the FAA.
Rural electric cooperatives are also beginning to use drones in their operations. According to NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) staff, there are at least 400 co-ops that either own drones and have employees certified to operate commercial drones or work with outside contractors to provide drone services.
Interest in and use of drones will grow as technology evolves with airframes that are more maneuverable, can lift and carry loads, and are equipped with new thermal, sonic, and laser sensors. Workers will still be required to actually do repairs on equipment and lines; but there can be a large savings in time and costs to the cooperative – as well as increased safety for line workers in mountainous or other dangerous terrain.
A recent article in the NRECA magazine (RE, June 29,2020) relates a story from Pedernales Electric Cooperative in Texas, when assessing damage from devastating floods along the Blanco River watershed. Eric Bitzko, the system maintenance supervisor, says his “Aha!” moment came when he realized he could use a recreational drone to fly a strong but light rope over dangerously flooded streams to an awaiting crew.
This pull rope was then attached to conductor cable, which was tugged into place and installed. He was given permission because of the obvious advantages of using the drone. “It was faster and safer than putting a lineman in a kayak to carry the pull line across the stream,” Bitzko says.
So, in the future, if you should see a drone flying over power lines on your property, consider it might be doing the job of making sure the lines are clear and equipment functioning properly. This work will minimize power interruptions and outages.
If Powell Valley Electric Cooperative begins using drones to improve its services, it is to be hoped that member-owners will be notified in advance of this development. Members do not want to be surprised by this activity – as members were surprised in 2017 when unannounced spraying of pesticides took place on their property.
If you know of programs at other electric cooperatives that benefit member-owners, please let us know by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone needs to learn more about our electric cooperative. For more information, go to pve.coop.