Pacific Gas and Electric Company Tests Drones as Potential Safety Inspectors of Gas and Electric Infrastructure

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is testing the utility of drones to increase safety of its electric and gas infrastructures after receiving authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use the unmanned aircraft systems to help with the infrastructure inspections.

The drones, which are controlled by operators using remote commands, will be tested at the hydroelectric facility Balch Powerhouse, located outside of Fresno, California. Tests at the Balch Powerhouse will include using the drones to assess equipment that is located in steep terrain and other areas whose geological environments pose danger to inspectors and require an extensive amount of training and safety equipment.

Vice President of Electric Transmission and Distribution at PG&E reported that the drone tests are proving to be successful as the drones are able to fly over hard-to-reach and inaccessible terrain and bring back images of the conditions of electric and gas infrastructure located in the terrain. The benefits of using drones for inspection include the enhancement of safety and reliability and accurate detection of leaks and structural issues in remote areas and over long distances.

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