New Braunfels Utilities launches drone program

Texas public power utility New Braunfels Utilities (NBU) on Sept. 19 said that it is launching a drone program that will allow NBU to maintain a high level of transmission and distribution system reliability as well as monitor for quality assurance and control across its entire service area.

NBU noted that it has studied drone technology and industry best practices for several years. In 2017, NBU utilized drones to perform inspections on three-phase electric distribution lines. The drone inspections provided insight into the potential of what could be accomplished with the use of drone technology.

“Our initial flight of roughly five miles of distribution lines and poles showed us that we could use the technology efficiently and maintain 100 percent data retention,” said Robin Britton, director of technology systems and systems control.

NBU CEO Ian Taylor noted that each of NBU’s drone pilots are Federal Aviation Administration certified and have received extensive training. “The NBU drones are clearly marked, making them easily identifiable. We want to ensure that customer privacy is respected; therefore, our pilots will only fly the drones on right of ways and easements that are available to NBU.”

NBU said that its drone program will allow it to conduct inspections of power lines, transformers, poles, and water towers and locate potential problems before they occur. Imagery and photography retention is expected to provide precise data, “allowing NBU employees to make informed decisions that will increase efficiency,” the utility said.

Additional information about the drone program is available here.

Other public power utilities also utilizing drones

Several other public power utilities are also utilizing drones including Columbia Water & Light in Missouri, Florida-based Keys Energy Services and Texas-based CPS Energy.