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Flying Higher: How Exelon Uses Drones to Raise Safety Performance

 

​Safety is our highest priority. Exelon’s investment in new technologies such as drones enables us to implement innovative solutions that mitigate injury risks and hazards for our employees on the job while improving the reliability of our electric grid. 


In partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology, ComEd drafted a detailed plan for its drone program. In 2015, ComEd became the first energy company approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operationally pilot unmanned aircraft systems. This monumental step in our industry has provided incredible success in operational safety while benefiting our customers and communities. 

ComEd’s Drone Program prevents injury risks for employees.

At ComEd, the use of drones has reduced risk for employees working on dangerous terrain by capturing system images and enabling them to assess lines and components through an aerial view with high-resolution photography. 


In the case of storms and natural disasters, line workers can deploy drones to analyze damage in locations previously inaccessible due to safety concerns, and make decisions about where to send crews first. Drones have also been helpful for preventative maintenance because they can capture images of energized equipment that might otherwise require planned outages, ensuring they are safely and remotely reviewed while keeping power running. 

ComEd operates 90,000 miles of power lines which are positioned high above the ground. Their locations require an expert level of experience for evaluation and management. Drones are an efficient and effective solution for workers to keep power lines maintained while minimizing employee exposure to risk-prone areas and hazardous situations. They no longer need to climb tall structures or energized equipment that may cause injury. To date, the program has successfully launched more than 250 drone flights, and it continues to expand.


All prospective drone pilots are required to receive a Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC) certificate to operate all unmanned aircraft systems, along with several additional criteria including FAA regulations.

ComEd’s drone program benefits our customers, communities and environments.

As technologies continue to advance, drones can replace other aerial imaging sources such as helicopters that might negatively affect the surrounding environment due to their size and wind power. Using advances such as hyperspectral imaging and LiDAR technology allows utilities to form 3D maps of adjacent vegetation and forecast all potential risks of the local landscape cutting down on potential negative impacts to our system and the environment. These technologies will allow ComEd to conduct assessments without compromising its commitment to preserve protected species and habitats.


New technologies deliver smarter energy solutions. 

With many benefits of the initial drone program in place, ComEd is focused on helping shape the future of drone legislation in Illinois. By 2020, ComEd anticipates having a fully operational drone program with expanded flight mission capabilities. 

In addition, Exelon is working to extend the use of robotics and similar technologies across our enterprise. Our mid-Atlantic utilities, including BGE and PECO, are developing pilot programs to incorporate drone technologies into everyday operations, and Exelon Generation sites inspect their facilities using drone technology, as well. Not only will we continue to provide a safe environment for our workers, but we’re also committed to using advance technologies to provide more efficient energy production for our customers.
To learn more about ComEd’s innovations with its drone program, visit ComEd’s Powering Lives Network.




 

 

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