The UAS industry is experiencing explosive growth, with the electric power industry application alone expected to reach $2.8 billion by 2028, according to a recent market research report. Applying advanced UAS technologies to modernize asset management activities has resulted in safer, more responsive, and more efficient operations – but there is still some work to be done to fully leverage the opportunity that drones bring to the utility industry.
Many utility companies have invested in building high-tech drone programs as a more efficient and safe means of maintaining the integrity of transmission infrastructure. Though despite some achievements, many in-house solutions still struggle to fully realize the potential of using drones to manage thousands of miles of power lines, particularly across remote and rural areas that may be dense with vegetation or at high risk of weather damage.
Next-level UAS solutions
Beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) UAS technology allows operators to fly drones further than what is visible to the human operator, depending on the landscape and terrain. As part of a broader drone program, BVLOS operations enable electric companies to substantially increase the efficiency and effectiveness of long-linear inspection and vegetation management activities. For example, capturing, processing, and providing images and other data from large sections of the energy grid in real-time can increase the value and immediate impact of a drone program. Further, BVLOS operations allow companies to perform more frequent and demand-responsive inspections, leading to a more predictive maintenance model that helps to decrease the risk of outages.
Unfortunately, many in-house electric company UAS programs do not have long-range BVLOS capabilities, due to complex regulatory requirements, capital investments, and operational considerations.