Daily operations are starting to look a lot different at I&M thanks to drones. I&M has started to use this technology to speed along tasks, such as storm assessment and is beginning to explore how drones can assist in planning/design work.
“I&M is always looking for new and innovative ways to use technology to serve our customers. Drones provide numerous opportunities to help customers amid storm restoration efforts and new projects.” said Subin Mathew, Director of Grid Modernization for I&M.
The team is made up of seven certified pilots, two additional pilots in training and nine drones. Kirk Eisert, Distribution Project Support Supervisor, says the team safely performs work that was either time-consuming or previously impossible.
“We can tell how many power poles, power lines and equipment are damaged. Not to mention, if there are any trees on the power lines,” said Eisert. “Drones can also reach the equipment faster and keep our line workers, hazard assessors and technicians out of dangerous areas. This enables I&M to help restore power safer and more efficiently for our customers.”
Drones are quickly deployed to the sky after damaging thunderstorms and ice storms to assess damage to electrical equipment and power lines. Drones perform more detailed assessments and access to hard-to-reach areas that would otherwise take hours for crews on the ground. For example, I&M crews recently used drones in June to inspect miles of power lines in Fort Wayne after recording breaking winds knocked down power poles and power lines. This improves safety and effectiveness in these difficult locations and challenging situations.
Drones can take photos and videos from several viewpoints, angles and heights. Drones also enable pilots to zoom in on equipment to perform inspections.
“As with any technology, drones and the cameras will ultimately improve and the work we are doing will be even more relevant,” said Chad Mabry, I&M's 'chief drone pilot'. “This will set I&M up to grow and enhance how we provide essential services to our communities in the future.”