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A utility company is Allentown, Philadelphia, has begun using small surveillance drones to keep an eye on their holdings, machinery and infrastructure.
The company, PPL Electric Utilities, is the latest agency to jump on surging popularity of these incredibly useful unmanned vehicles, which, according to Joe Nixon, a spokesman for PPL Electric Utilities, are used for any situation in which a worker would be put at risk unnecessarily.
In a statement given this week, Mr. Nixon told the press that the two small UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), which are controlled from afar by radio operators and feature several helicopter-style rotors to allow massive manoeuvrability and control in the air, are used to inspect line segments and substations.
Their use, he says, allows a closer look at any potential issues than a helicopter or manned truck would, for a fraction of the cost and at a much higher degree of employee safety.
Stating that the machines are seeing frequent use, he also stated that no PPL Electric Utilities staff were replaced as a result of the drone deployment.
Drones are becoming increasingly popular in public and private sector work, as they are relatively inexpensive to buy and even less so to operate, and generally allow excellent observation and information-gathering abilities with no risk to the operator. In PPL Electric Utilities’ case, this risk comes form electrified power lines, faulty machinery and falls from heights – all issues that are completely negated with the use of a small flying camera drone. The drone can get very close to the suspected source of a problem without the risk associated with a cherry picker or helicopter, and the cost is miniscule in comparison.
After all, a 20-pound electric drone will cost less to run for an hour than a fully-manned helicopter will, and the cost of a truck and work platform is almost as bad.
However, some people are uneasy at the proliferation of these drones into society. Their ability to discreetly go anywhere and film anything is often cited as a concern, with one man even going so far as to shoot one down with a shotgun when it flew too close to his property lines in 2014. However, whether the worried public shoots at them or not, one thing is becoming increasingly clear as time goes by – drones are here to stay, and they’ll be inspecting our dangerous power lines and buzzing around our power substations whether we like it or not.