“If there's a storm and trees are down, we can send drones in to survey the area and identify exactly where the energized lines are and before we send crews in there,” said Richard Mark, president of Ameren Illinois.
Drones also inspect thousands of miles of poles, power lines and natural gas facilities, and provide a safe and effective way to pinpoint where crews should go.
“We can identify the problem faster and that helps us get faster restoration time for customers and get them back in service,” Mark said.
A few weeks ago, Ameren Illinois used a drone in an area that was flooded. They had a problem that needed to be fixed. The drone was able to check 12 poles over a mile in an area that had become a swamp. It located the problem, saved workers a day of extra time, and customers power was restored faster.
“We're in the infinite steps, but if you look into future stages, there are all kinds of use cases by other utilities companies,” said Kyle Maxwell, Ameren Illinois’ superintendent of electrical operations.
The utility will soon have 32 FAA certified drone pilots across the state. Mark said the drones are not taking work away from employees, but rather helping them.
“A lineman can now make a call and say, ‘I need a drone to walk this two-mile stretch of cable,’” Mark said.
The drones also allow Ameren Illinois to extend the use of their infrared technology and better serve the community.