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Avion Unmanned is bringing drone power to local public utility companies.  A subsidiary of defense contractor Avion Solutions, Avion Unmanned provides operational support and training to industries adopting drone technology for the first time – and Huntsville Utilities are their latest client.

While drones are widely used in Asia for utility applications such as power line stringing, and throughout Asia and Europe to monitor infrastructure for vegetation encroachment or other potential problems, regulations have made it difficult for widespread adoption of drone technology in the utilities sector here in the US.  Avion Unmanned is working to overcome the hurdles for utility companies, and set the standard for drone operations in the sector.

“Avion Unmanned is setting the standard for developing a UAS or drone utility program that includes topics on conducting operations, UAS operator qualifications, visual observer qualifications, and training requirements,” says the company.  “Along with this, Avion Unmanned wants to identify the potential paths for a utility to take in order to employ drones in the field, and maintain a high level of safety that will reduce costs to utility customers and decrease risk across the board.”

Avion worked with the Department of Energy (DOE)and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to develop the DOE technical publication titled “An Early Survey of Best Practices for the Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems by the Electric Utility Industry.”  Avion and Huntsville Utilities have partnered on a proposal to the American Public Power Association (APPA) for a Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Developments (DEED) grant to research the feasibility of unmanned aircraft systems’ use in the Public Utility Industry.

“The purpose of the DEED grant work is to provide APPA members with a resource for best practices for the use of unmanned aircraft,” the company explains.  “This resource will include things like how to determine if your utility can support a UAS program, or if it is more feasible to contract drone operations. It will also discuss topics such as FAA regulations, safety standards, operational requirements and equipment that are reasonable for small to large utilities to anticipate utilizing.”

Utilities are one of the sectors in which drone technology can offer significant value.  Often eliminating the need to send workers up in a cherry-picker to inspect potentially dangerous wires, drones offer major savings in time and cost to examine power lines, while minimizing the risk to the workforce.   As companies like Avion Unmanned work to bring utility companies online with drone programs, both companies and consumers could benefit.

Miriam McNabb is the CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. She writes for DRONELIFE on current news, financial trends, and FAA regulations. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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