In February of this year, Commonwealth Edison was granted approval from the FAA to use Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) – drones – for inspections of its electric facilities. ComEd, which distributes electricity to 3.8 million customers across 11,400 square miles in Chicago and northern Illinois, became the first utility to receive approval to use drones on an operational basis.
The Illinois Institute of Technology and ComEd have partnered on the project to use drone technology to inspect ComEd’s utility lines.
ComEd sees storm damage assessment as one of two primary applications for drones, particularly in hard-to-access areas where lines stretch along railroad tracks or over farm fields. Currently, such areas require inspection by off-road vehicles or by foot.
Another key use is line maintenance – surveying for potential problems before the lights go out. ComEd plans to equip drones with infrared cameras to detect hot spots on electrical lines, which can be a precursor for line failure.
For its 5,000-plus miles of high-voltage transmission, the utility currently conducts inspections via helicopter. Years from now, though, drones could be an alternative. In the meantime, unmanned aircraft could be used to patrol smaller distribution lines that have more of a direct impact on outages.
This webinar will be presented by Linda G. Rhodes, CSP, Operational Strategy & Business Intelligence –Strategic Initiatives at Commonwealth Edison. Linda will provide the history behind the UAS project and the associated risks, as well as discuss the future use of this technology at ComEd.