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Flying High: Incorporating BVLOS into an Existing Utility UAS Program

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Flying High: Incorporating BVLOS into an Existing Utility UAS Program

The global unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry is experiencing explosive growth, with the utility application alone expected to reach $2.8 billion by 2028, according to a recent Adroit Market Research Report. Common uses of UAS in the utility industry as part of operations and asset management activities include digitizing asset information, identifying and categorizing defects on power lines, analyzing vegetation encroachments, performing emergency response/restoration activities and executing pre/post-construction site mapping.

All of these are critical functions that must be effectively executed to power our communities and optimize our nation’s infrastructure. The application of advanced UAS technologies to modernize these activities has resulted in more responsive, efficient, and safe operations.

Many utility companies have already invested in building high-tech drone programs as a more efficient and safe means of maintaining the integrity of the electric power transmission infrastructure. However, despite some achievements, most in-house solutions are still struggling to fully realize the potential of using drones to manage thousands of miles of power lines, particularly across remote and rural areas that may be dense with vegetation or at high risk of weather damage.

Next-level UAS solutions

Beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) UAS technology allows operators to fly drones further than what is visible to the human operator depending on the landscape and terrain. As part of a broader drone program, BVLOS operations enable utility companies to substantially increase the efficiency and effectiveness of long-linear inspection and vegetation management activities. For example, the opportunity to capture, process, and provide images and data from large sections of the grid in real-time can dramatically increase the value and immediate impact of a drone program. Further, BVLOS operations allow utilities to perform more frequent and demand-responsive inspections, leading to a more predictive maintenance model resulting in a decreased risk of outages.  Unfortunately, most internal utility UAS programs do not have long-range BVLOS capabilities due to the complex regulatory requirements, capital investments, and operational considerations.

Choosing a complementary BVLOS partner

The existence of an in-house drone program without BVLOS capabilities does not have to be a limiting factor for a utility company wanting to expand UAS inspection operations to include long linear infrastructure. Offering a unique complementary solution, Spright delivers end-to-end BVLOS drone inspection services that enhance in-house programs by supplementing localized inspection operations to include advanced BVLOS flights. Pairing a BVLOS-capable partner like Spright with an existing in-house program provides comprehensive asset coverage that maximizes the use of UAS technology for safer, greener, more efficient inspection activities.

Aviation expertise applied to industry demands

Recently launched as the drone division of leading air medical operator Air Methods, Spright maintains a state-of-the-art utility drone fleet with nationwide presence to enable scalability across the U.S. Aviation-based service providers like Spright are uniquely able to leverage existing Part 135 and other operator certificates, as well as FAA relationships and regulatory expertise, to effectively deliver a solution designed to further enhance the success of UAS as a key driver in streamlined asset management operations.

For more information on Spright utility inspection services, please visit www.sprightutility.com or reach out to [email protected].