Drones to detect power outages in Illinois

URBANA, Ill. (AP) _ An electrical and natural-gas service company in central Illinois is using a fleet of drones to detect power outages, inspect power lines and poles and plan for construction projects.

The News-Gazette reports that Ameren Illinois officials demonstrated the drones Tuesday in Urbana. The company has 36 drones and 18 trained pilots.

Kyle Maxwell is the company’s superintendent of electrical operations and one of the licensed drone pilots. He says a fully supplied drone and kit costs about $3,000.

Electric Initiative Manager Riley Adams says the drones heighten safety and save time, but that they have limitations. They can’t be used after dark or within five miles of an airport control tower.

Adams says the drones may be fitted with advanced technology in the future to detect issues like natural-gas leaks.