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Utilities Use Unmanned Aircraft to Find Problems

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Phoenix Air Unmanned's Swiss Drone SDo 50V2 requires special FAA permission to fly, due to its weight.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Utilities are using unmanned drones to inspect power lines and other infrastructure through companies like Cartersville, GA-based charter operator Phoenix Air.

The company's Phoenix Air Unmanned division began using battery-powered drones to inspect utility transmission lines three years ago, and now it aims to deploy bigger drones with helicopter-like flight capability.

Each SwissDrone SDO 50 V2 rotorcraft could carry two cameras and a light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensor.

Phoenix Air Unmanned mainly serves Midwestern electric utility Xcel Energy with small drones, but managing director Will Lovett hopes to gain more clients with the bigger drones.

Michael Robbins at drone industry group Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International said aging infrastructure, fiercer storms, and labor issues drive the need for more efficient inspections; industry proponents also claim drones can reduce deadly helicopter crashes and worker accidents, slash costs, enhance data collection, and save time.

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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