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How Drone Crews Are Helping Restore Power After Hurricane Florence

Duke Energy
A screenshot of available drone crews deployed to the Carolinas last week. Power companies can survey damage with the drones while they wait for roads to reopen.

Power companies, including Duke Energy, are putting their drones into action to survey damage from Hurricane Florence. The information they get helps develop a plan to get the electricity back on sooner.

The problem with Florence is all the flooding and bucket trucks aren't able to drive through the water. So in the meantime, dozens of drones help work out a plan of action.

Duke's Manager of Unmanned Aerial Systems Jacob Velky says it helps get eyes on the damaged infrastructure. "So when the flooding recedes we have the reconaissance of what that damage is going to look like and we can preposition the tools, materials and the people to get the lights on in those flooded areas as quickly as possible after the water recedes," he explains. 

Here is https://youtu.be/EJd6caE6gEE" target="_blank">video of a Duke drone inspecting a line in the Wilmington, North Carolina area:

In North Carolina, some rivers receded but then crested again. At least 13 rivers were at major flood stage when WVXU interviewed Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Vice President for Security and Preparedness Scott Aaronson. EEI is a power company trade group.

"The use cases have just exploded in number," he says. "We can do this from everything from maintenance to surveillance on our lines to disaster response."

Velky was one of the first to use a drone to restring power lines in Puerto Rico.

Duke has been using drones since 2015, testing them in Indiana and North Carolina.

Electric companies now have more than three dozen drone crews in the Carolinas helping to restore power.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.