ORNL releases guide for electric utilities looking to add drones

By Luke Geiver | February 16, 2017

Rick Lusk has created a best practices guide for utilizing unmanned aircraft systems from the insight of pilots and practitioners from all over the world. Lusk, the director of the unmanned aircraft systems center at Oak Ridge National Lab, produced his report for utility businesses, directors, managers and operators for use in their pre-planning or integration efforts of UAVs into day-to-day operations.

The 168-page report, “An Early Survey of Best Practices for the Use of Small Unmanned Aerial Systems by the Electric Utility Industry,” offers insight into a range of topics, including: current regulations surrounding the use of UAVs, mission planning, benefits of UAVs, appropriate sensor packages, safety protocols and privacy considerations.

“In this manual, what we hope to provide energy companies is a body of knowledge to inform their steps moving forward,” Lusk said. “Possible uses of the information may include as a baseline to start a UAS program or for developing a scoring rubric for vetting potential UAS contract operators.”

For UAVs to be fully integrated into electric utility operations, the report offers several technological upgrades or innovations that need to happen, including:

-big data capture, analysis, management and storage

-higher levels of autonomy, self-launch and recovery

-secure communication links for BVLOS

-more precise sensors

-more effective payload capabilities

-more effective propulsion technologies

To view the full report, click here.