Western Pa. utilities use drones and other robots to make inspections safer, more efficient

Buzzing around power lines in Beaver County — it’s not a bird. It’s not a plane. It’s a drone. Duquesne Light recently sent out the remote-controlled device to inspect poles and other equipment near Aliquippa as part of a pilot project to make inspections more reliable and safer for the crew.

Duquesne Light’s new Skydio drone, armed with high resolution cameras and thermal sensors, can zoom into hard-to-reach locations, see damage from all angles and sense an overheated piece of equipment — all of which would be difficult for a human inspector…

Drones are an ideal technology for utility inspections, according to Burcu Akinci, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. With poles and wires distributed over miles, human inspection takes time. With drones, “you get this bird’s eye view with data and imagery. And data that is very difficult to get in any other way.”

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