Ameren, Black & Veatch, Collins Aerospace Team Passes Key Milestone for Maturing UAS Inspection Technology
With thousands of miles of high-voltage lines, Ameren Corp. wanted a better and safer way to monitor its assets spread over rural territories beyond manual or helicopter inspections. The St. Louis-based energy company worked with Black & Veatch and Collins Aerospace to identify a solution: Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights. The team now has proven they can inspect more miles of transmission lines faster and safer than ever envisioned.
On Nov. 8, the team was able to utilize a BVLOS drone on a non-stop, 60-mile flight to inspect transmission lines. The successful flight demonstrated the maturing technology’s promise of more efficient monitoring of expansive utility assets, especially in remote rural stretches.
In 2017, a BVLOS drone was used to inspect nearly 10 miles of Ameren’s power lines near Newton, Illinois. The 2018 flight, featuring a special use vertical take-off and landing drone, went six times the distance of last year’s flight. This long-range achievement underscores the revolutionary potential of drones in ensuring a resilient power supply, using an eye in the sky and imaging data captured by laser-based profiling called Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR).
“At Ameren, innovation is at the core of all we do, and the solutions we incorporate today, such as Beyond Visual Line of Sight drones, will enable us to continue to deliver safe, reliable and affordable energy to our customers tomorrow and for generations to come,” said James Pierce, BVLOS program manager and lead of Ameren’s Central Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Department. “We are pleased with the outcome of this 60-mile flight, which demonstrates our commitment to identifying advancements in drone technology to increase reliability and customer satisfaction. Ultimately, the successful deployment of BVLOS drones could revolutionize how Ameren assesses and evaluates the condition of our systems.”