Xcel Energy inspects more than 320,000 miles of electricity and natural gas infrastructure to ensure the safety and reliability of its energy system. Now with approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, Xcel Energy will be able to more efficiently, effectively and safely monitor its systems using drone technology.
The FAA on May 11 approved Xcel Energy’s request to operate small unmanned aircraft systems or drones commercially. Xcel Energy sought the approval so it can inspect its critical energy infrastructure.
Xcel Energy will use drones to visually inspect electricity transmission and distribution lines, power plants, renewable energy facilities, substations and natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines.
“We are pleased with the FAA decision as we study how this new technology can best be used to enhance employee and public safety at our operations,” said Kent Larson, Xcel Energy’s executive vice president and group president of operations.
The use of small unmanned aircraft systems will allow Xcel Energy employees to safely inspect hard to reach areas, keeping the workers out of danger. Employees will also use drones to observe environmentally sensitive areas without the use of trucks, helicopters or other utility equipment, minimizing the environmental impact.
“We believe these measures will increase electricity and gas system reliability, reduce customer costs and improve our emergency response times,” said Larson. He added that the company’s current plan is to use drones only over utility property or utility rights of way and away from populated areas and airports. The drones will be flown at low altitudes and in the operator’s line of sight.
Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) is a major U.S. electricity and natural gas company with regulated operations in eight Western and Midwestern states. Xcel Energy provides a comprehensive portfolio of energy-related products and services to 3.5 million electricity customers and 1.9 million natural gas customers through its regulated operating companies. The company’s headquarters are located in Minneapolis.
Source: Press Release