FPL uses drones in good weather and bad to assess overhead power equipment.
FPL uses drones in good weather and bad to assess overhead power equipment. Drones are ideally suited this work because they can safely and quickly deliver high quality photos and videos of our power lines in a way that can minimize environmental impact. They also help us to not inconvenience customers in order to gain access to our equipment on their property. Because of these benefits, drone assessments are a standard industry practice.
In day-to-day operations, we use drones to perform maintenance inspections of equipment. These proactive assessments help us identify any areas of concern before an outage can occur.
Following a severe weather event, drones help us assess damage in areas that are flooded or impassable due to collapsed vegetation.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is the governmental body that regulates aviation in the United States, granted approval for FPL to use several specific drone models that meet the federal safety and reliability requirements. These small, consumer-oriented drones resemble a small helicopter with four rotors. Generally, the drones are about the size of a basketball.
FPL conducts approximately 10 drone assessments each day across our service area. In 2018, we assessed more than 4,000 miles of overhead power equipment using drones. As of July 1, 2019, we have completed more than 3,000 proactive drone assessments so far this year, surveying more than 7,000 miles of overhead equipment.
FPL uses the drones to collect photos of the equipment on each power pole. The drones take six close-up images of the equipment on each pole from various angles. Some drone assessments even use an infrared camera to detect changes in heat on the equipment. This method gives added visibility into potential issues that the naked eye would otherwise be unable to detect. Drones can also assess vegetation encroachment.
Examples of images captured by drone assessments:
We see drone technology as another tool in our toolkit to provide safe, reliable and affordable power to all our customers. The data collected during the proactive drone assessments helps FPL resolve potential issues before an outage can occur. Drones enable assessments of high-voltage equipment from a safe distance.
We make every effort to proactively notify customers when we will be conducting drone assessments in their area. Customers will be notified by a phone call with an automated voice recording. We encourage customers looking for additional information to visit FPL.com/Drones.
The approved drones fly at relatively slow speeds and contain built-in safety features. All flights are conducted by licensed drone pilots. Before commencing operation, our pilots conduct pre-flight safety checks and follow other FAA guidelines for safe operations. We conduct all flight operations in safe weather and flight conditions, and only use the small craft in proximity to airports with FAA approval. We also conduct drone flights over private or controlled-access property.
We are committed to the privacy of our customers in all aspects of our business. All drone assessments are completed by licensed drone pilots and comply with all of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and regulations. Our drones only capture images and videos of FPL power equipment, including poles and power lines. The visuals are never distributed outside of FPL and are stored in a secure location.
Federal Aviation Administration: https://www.faa.gov/uas/