PG&E Leads the Way: Drones Transforming Utility Operations

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In a pioneering move towards safety and efficiency, around 200 drone pilots from PG&E gathered in San Ramon for a groundbreaking conference showcasing the utility’s innovative use of drones. This first-of-its-kind event highlighted how drones are becoming invaluable tools for PG&E, enabling quicker responses to challenges and more efficient restoration of operations.

PG&E proudly asserts that it is the first utility company in North America permitted to use drones strategically. The utility now boasts over 30 drones deployed on service trucks and strategically placed at substations. These drones play a crucial role in responding swiftly to downed lines, isolating issues, and making necessary repairs, significantly reducing the downtime for customers experiencing power outages.

Joshua Hill, a drone supervisor at PG&E, emphasized the versatility of drones, particularly in situations where traditional methods fall short. Drones can navigate inaccessible areas, areas unsafe for helicopters, or regions where crews would face challenges hiking or boating across waterways. The goal is to use drones, in conjunction with puller tensioners, to string power lines efficiently, ensuring a faster restoration of power for customers—a more efficient and cost-effective approach.

PG&E showcased operations in adverse conditions, emphasizing the role of drones in wildfire situations. Drones can fly safely in challenging environments, providing crucial diagnostics for the utility. Daniel Lira, a PG&E drone pilot, highlighted the capabilities of drones for transmission and distribution line inspections, featuring advanced cameras with thermal imaging and high zoom capabilities.

The utility also shared footage of using large capacity drones in collaboration with transmission construction crews in Vallejo, demonstrating the versatility of drones in various scenarios. PG&E pointed out that during winter, drones can navigate over snow-covered terrain, assisting crews in locating and addressing issues more easily.

The conference showcased PG&E’s commitment to leveraging drone technology to enhance safety, efficiency, and overall customer satisfaction. As the utility continues to lead in the adoption of drones, the future promises even more transformative advancements in utility operations. Stay tuned for the evolving role of drones in keeping the power on and ensuring reliable services for PG&E customers.

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