Inside Unmanned Systems

DEC 2018 - JAN 2019

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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AIR IMPLEMENTATION 50  December 2018/January 2019 unmanned systems inside Photos courtesy of Mark Blanks Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech and Stockpile Reports. AeroVironment Puma preforming Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) inspections on a Dominion Energy 230kV transmission line in Buckingham County, Virginia. DOMINION ENERGY Dominion Energy was first approached by a service provider in 2013 and began flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for inspections mid-2015, said Steve Eisenrauch, manager of electric transmission forestry and line services. Dominion uses three main service providers and has several others on contract. A few departments also have in-house programs, including the corporate communications team and those responsible for methane and leak inspections. The utility first worked with service providers because they didn't have the equipment or material needed to start a drone program on their own, Eisenrauch said. They decided to stick with providers for a variety of reasons, including the access to state-of-the-art equipment, the fact they don't need to provide additional training for linemen or bring on additional staff, and the reduced risk to the utility. Typically, Dominion's main service providers can get to a site within a few hours, depending on drive time, Eisenrauch said. The providers use a variety of systems, but it's important for the team at Dominion to understand the process for updating firmware and handling data "so there's no chance the data ends up where it doesn't need to be." With the help of the aviation department and business unit, Dominion also put corporate procedures in place that service providers and in-house pilots must abide by. They also review the providers' policies, procedures and operations manuals, and only hire pilots with experience flying around electric transmission. Pilots must be safety conscious and able to supply solid references. They're brought in to Dominion's training facility to fly in an energized environment so Eisenrauch and the rest of the team can make sure they're comfortable with their procedures and how they inspect the structures. Once they hire a provider, they set a scope of work that outlines how often inspections should be performed. "You first have to build a business case," Eisenrauch said. "It's really cool to bring drones in for demonstrations, but you need to think about if they really have an application and build that business case ahead of time and see if the drone fits. It may or may not. You also have to have a safety case. Demos are extremely important to help us see what they can do before we fly them in our facility. It's also important to be able to fund the program for a period of time. It doesn't make sense to bring in a provider for just a couple days. They can't get into a rhythm and won't be able to become effective at doing the work you want to bring them in for." from successful companies Advice

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