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New FAA Rule Allows Utilities to Expand Drone Use

September 09, 2016, by Roselynne Reyes

Photo via Flickr/Budi Nusyirwan.
Photo via Flickr/Budi Nusyirwan.

A new rule from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that went into effect in late August is enabling more utility companies to consider unmanned aircraft systems to improve operations.

The FAA’s newest rule allows companies such as utilities to use drones without a waiver under certain conditions. In addition, the new rule includes the option to apply for a waiver, allowing companies to operate small drones even if they fail to meet certain parts of the rule.

Currently, many utilities use costly helicopters to inspect their assets in situations that are too dangerous for employees to assess on their own. With drones becoming a more viable option, utilities have the opportunity to save time and money while collecting clearer pictures, according to USA Today.

A number of utilities have worked with drones over the past few years. Dominion Energy and San Diego Gas & Electric have been testing drones since 2014.

Duke Energy in North Carolina has been working with drones for the past year, testing them for a number of uses. According to its website, the utility has used drones to inspect large boilers at power plants, find and fix faulty solar panels, and assess damage after natural disasters. So far, drone use has been limited to the company property, and Duke has not announced any plans to bring drone use to the public.

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