Drones Beyond Line of Sight
For the first time in the utility industry the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given authorization to a utility company to utilize drone technology beyond the operator’s line of sight. Xcel Energy serves customers in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. Xcel Energy in Colorado has received approval from the FAA to routinely fly drones beyond the operator’s visual line of sight for the purpose of inspecting and surveying transmission lines near Denver, Colorado. The FAA’s decision to allow Xcel Energy to operate these flights is a break from the usual FAA rules and unprecedented in the utility industry. Xcel Energy will use advanced command-and-control technology in order to ensure safe operations. This exception will allow the company to inspect lines without trucks, helicopters, or other utility equipment.