Drones being used to improve safety, increase grid resiliency

EnergyLines October 2020


When you hear it, it is a distinct buzzing sound. It is a little louder than a bee buzzing nearby. If you look up, you might find it – a drone flying overhead. This equipment is no longer just for hobbyists, it has become an intricate tool used by electric utilities to increase safety and grid resiliency. Hoosier Energy is using this equipment for monitoring rights-of-way and powerlines that can transmit up to 345kV of energy. This improves safety, reduces response time and saves money.


Safety is a top priority at Hoosier Energy and having the proper vantage point when working on power lines is important. Drones change that.


“We feel these drones will be able to cut work time significantly because they are removing most of the guess work,” said Kriss Miller, Manager Regulatory Compliance. “This equipment also allows our employees to take a closer look at the situation so that the correct tools are selected prior to reaching the site and safety precautions can be addressed.”


Crew members operating a drone, standing at a safe distance on the ground, can record work areas using a high-definition camera. Pilots help capture birds-eye views of hazards or equipment damaged by storms.


New Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines state drone pilots must acquire a Remote Pilot Certificate. Coursework includes regulations and operating requirements. Four Hoosier Energy employees took the training program for drone licensing this year. 


Line Specialists Shawn Dilk, Greg Dooley and Ethan Hopkins, as well as Mick Ruhe, Line Working Foreman, completed the certificate program offered by Epic Imagery out of Washington, Ind.


The certificate is required anytime an unmanned aircraft is flown in national air space. Certification requires competence in analyzing weather conditions, national air space, aeronautical maps, flight requirements and restrictions.


Certified employees each have a drone and are located at different work centers across the Hoosier Energy service territory.


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