Inside Unmanned Systems

OCT-NOV 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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SPECIAL REPORT 22 unmanned systems inside October/November 2017 Photos courtesy of Florida Power and Light, The Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, BNSF and Verizon. A fter a hurricane, restoring power to cus- tomers is a top priority. Crews work long hours, often in dangerous situations, and in some cases can't get to the lines that need re- paired right away because it's just too treach- erous. That makes this a perfect use case for drones. Florida Power and Light (FPL) have deployed drones to help restore power in other hurricanes, including Matthew, Colin and Herman, and had 40 staged across the state before Irma hit, adding more teams later as needed. Third party vendors fl y the drones, FPL UAS Manager Eric Schwartz said, and are teamed up with a utility worker who knows what kind of damage to look for, such as downed poles and wires, vegetation in the lines, and transformer switches that are broken or cracked. "We're using it most in inaccessible locations, such as fl ooded areas or where trees have fallen and we get can't get past the road," Schwartz said. "The whole goal is to safely inspect areas hit by the storm and to understand what needs to be fi xed or replaced so we can bring that equipment in once we're able to get into the area." In Dade County, a line ended up falling through a mangrove, Schwartz said, and there was no way for crew members to get there to assess the damage. Even after they gained access, it still would have taken a day to de- termine the damage and what equipment was needed, then another day to get the equipment on site and make the repairs. Imagery from a drone showed them exactly what they were dealing with—making it possible to restore power for customers in that area a day earlier. FPL has a blanket waiver from the FAA to fl y at night, and also received 10 BVLOS waivers after Irma, Schwartz said. The ability to fl y BVLOS was a huge help in fully understanding how bad the fl ooding was in some areas of the state, including Restoring Power Florida Power and Light (FPL) used drones to help restore power faster after Hurricane Irma (top). The Lone Star UAS team provides support in Rockford, Texas after Hurricane Harvey (bottom). across farmland where it just wasn't safe to drive a vehicle to assess the circuit. FPL used its waivers to provide mutual assis- tance for Keys Energy Services and the Florida Municipal Power Agency. They fl ew a three mile transmission section at night and BVLOS, a fi rst for the company. The thermal camera on board identifi ed a broken insulator, which was causing a fault in a transmission line. "We were looking for hot spots on the insu- lator for the transmission line," Schwartz said. "They identifi ed the insulator that was bad ear- lier in the day, but wanted to fl y at night to make sure that was the only cause. They wanted to see if any other insulators could also be causing the fault. They changed it out the next morning." The team fl ew its fi rst daylight BVLOS fl ight after Irma as well, Schwartz said, over a small is- land that can only be reached by boat. Instead of waiting for a boat, assessing the damage and then making another trip to bring the necessary equip- ment, they fl ew a drone from the mainland to per- form the assessment, speeding up the restoration process for customers who live on the island. AFTER THE STORM

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