PG&E Takes Flight: Advancements in Drone Technology Transform Utility Operations

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In a significant leap towards innovation, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) recently hosted an international drone conference at the Bishop Ranch office complex in San Ramon. This event marked a pivotal moment for PG&E, a utility that has been at the forefront of integrating drones into its operations for the past eight years.

From being one of the pioneers to employ drones for equipment and line inspections, PG&E has evolved to operate one of the world’s largest and most advanced drone inspection programs. The utility’s commitment to drone technology has resulted in increased system reliability, as highlighted by Kellen Kirk, PG&E Aerial Surveys Manager.

Notably, PG&E began utilizing drones last year for natural gas pipeline leak surveys, covering 16 miles of underwater crossings, a task traditionally performed by boats. This year, the utility achieved a milestone by becoming California’s first to obtain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for inspections conducted beyond the visual sight of drone operators.

Infravision, a crucial contributor to PG&E’s drone capabilities, provides drones that string new or replacement power lines onto poles and expedite repairs for winter storm-damaged equipment. PG&E’s drone chief, Kirk, notes the versatility of these drones for storm repairs, outages, and construction scenarios where traditional methods are impractical. PG&E is also leveraging other drone innovations with companies such as Skydio and Precison Hawk to support various areas in the business.

As PG&E continues to lead the way in drone technology adoption, the future holds exciting possibilities for transforming utility operations, making them more efficient, reliable, and responsive to various challenges. The conference serves as a testament to the ongoing advancements that promise an impressive future in the realm of drone technology.

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