Putting Drone Collection To The Test

Dominion Energy is a power and energy company that operates in 16 states and maintains over 6,600 miles of overhead electric transmission lines in Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia. But Dominion, like most utilities, wanted to improve their operations through better data, safer processes, and more environmentally-friendly practices.

Here’s how Dominion Energy improved the accuracy of their data by partnering with PrecisionHawk to develop a drone-based inspection solution.

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When PrecisionHawk approached Dominion Energy, Inc. about demonstrating their new drone-based inspection technology, Steve Eisenrauch, Manager of Electric Distribution Contractor Resource Management, was intrigued. 

“What we wanted to do was, at a minimum, recreate the CVI inspections that we did with a helicopter so that we weren't losing anything,” says Eisenrauch “That was our baseline. And then we wanted to see if there was anything additional we could get.”

BPV M100 with Zenmuse XT and people in background-1

Better Angles

To test the drone-based CVI concept, Dominion selected a transmission line to fly with a helicopter and then flew the same line with a drone a couple of weeks later to compare the results. “We found that the drone really picked up on more issues on the poles than the helicopter did,” Eisenrauch says.

“This was attributed to the drones being able to get in and see different angles on the structures that helicopters could not. Helicopters are not able to get that close in and easily change positions on the structure. So we were very pleasantly surprised.”

(Too much) good data

PrecisionHawk blasted through its data collection baseline—so much so that Eisenrauch had to ask them to narrow their focus. Over time, the team learned what constituted an Area of Concern (AOC) and refined their data collection down to exactly what needed to be collected.

“The additional detail has been a bonus for us,” says Eisenrauch. “Our goal was to at least be able to duplicate what a helicopter does—and then there were the other benefits around using a drone in place of a helicopter: it's less intrusive to our customers, there's a better environmental footprint, it’s potentially safer, and it was nice to get the additional angles and pick up on additional defects.”

Overall, PrecisionHawk ended up finding 42% more AOCs such as cotter keys backing out and flashing on insulators.

Download the full Dominion Energy Case Study, to learn how we helped Dominion enrich their data and empower action.

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