Nelson County, Virginia
Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC) will be employing cutting-edge drone technology from June 11-16, 2018 to complete this year’s annual inspection of its transmission infrastructure. Though CVEC conducts some of its inspections from the ground, using linemen on foot or in trucks, many areas of CVEC’s 36,000 miles of line cut through areas where the terrain makes it difficult and unsafe to access. With drones, CVEC will be able to conduct these inspections more efficiently, covering larger areas and maximizing the reliability and integrity of its transmission system. As one of the first utility cooperatives in the state to embrace this safe and innovative option, CVEC looks forward to using drones to boost reliability and better serve its members.
In past years, CVEC has relied on helicopters to conduct transmission system inspections. However, with the introduction of drones, CVEC will be able to get closer to transmission lines and structures and collect clearer footage of CVEC’s electrical system. Because drones are smaller aircraft and move slower than helicopters, they will provide clearer, closer photos, as well as videos, and will have a considerably smaller impact on the environment.
CVEC will be partnering with PrecisionHawk, a leading provider of commercial drone technology, to complete these inspections. PrecisionHawk pilots are trained and Part 107 certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide advanced drone services. PrecisionHawk was also granted the first waiver by the FAA to fly drones beyond line of sight (BVLOS). By partnering with PrecisionHawk, CVEC will be able to take advantage of the ability to fly BVLOS to achieve improved efficiency for transmission system inspections.
PrecisionHawk, a stakeholder in developing privacy best practices for drone operators, will only collect footage of CVEC’s infrastructure. Members along the flight path will be notified prior to inspection.
In 2014, CVEC set a goal to improve reliability and reduce outage times by 20%, and has invested over $1 million per year in vegetation management and millions more in adding protective equipment to distribution lines. These efforts have enabled the cooperative to reduce outage times by more than 40% over the past three years. Now, CVEC looks forward to incorporating drones into its innovative technology portfolio in order to further improve reliability and maximize the integrity of CVEC’s transmission system.
Headquartered in Lovingston, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative is a member-owned electric-distribution utility serving over 36,000 meters in 14 counties across central Virginia. For more information, visit www.mycvec.com.