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I&M Uses Drones To Inspect Power Lines

Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) will use aerial drones to inspect distribution lines southwest of downtown Fort Wayne next week, weather permitting.

The drone inspections of wires and poles will take place in and north of the Waynedale area, between Engle and Lower Huntington roads.

These inspections help I&M to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the area’s distribution system. The aerial drone will follow distribution lines for extended periods of time to capture high-resolution images of I&M equipment for structure and line condition assessments.

This is the first time I&M has used drones for inspections of Distribution lines. The company plans to study the use of drone technology compared to the established method of visual inspections by employees and contractors.

“I&M constantly looks for ways to better serve our customers, and tests like these are the best way to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-efficiencies of using drones for line inspections,” said Marc Labrie, Distribution Project Support Supervisor. “Drones will allow us to take multiple photos of lines and associated power equipment. Our energy professionals will examine the photos to identify any areas of concern and address them before they impede reliability of our service.”

Safety is the top priority for I&M. A licensed operator pilots the drone, assisted by a camera operator/inspector on the ground. Inspection teams follow all FAA rules, including the requirement that the pilot maintain line of sight to the drone at all times. The inspection team will travel along the rights-of-way to access the distribution lines. I&M has contracted with Davey Resource Group, a company with experience in drone inspections of utility lines, to manage these aerial inspections.

Inspections are scheduled to early next week and conclude by Friday, though weather conditions could extend the timetable.