ComEd taps drones to remotely monitor equipment across northern Illinois

Published on March 03, 2023 by Chris Galford

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In an effort to enhance operations, ComED announced this week that it will test drone-based monitoring, deploying drones operated by certified pilots across northern Illinois to allow cheaper, safer, on-call remote surveillance of its equipment.

For ComEd, the remote aircraft present represents a win-win scenario: remote monitoring could allow the company to support grid performance through rapid inspection while cutting the operational and maintenance costs of having to dispatch crews to perform in-person inspections for every concern and by getting ahead of problems. It will also limit the amount of time pilots have to be in the field.

“At ComEd, we are always looking for ways to improve our customers’ experience and advance our storm recovery efforts. Smarter equipment monitoring is one way to proactively prevent outages and support overall grid performance,” said Terence Donnelly, president and COO of ComEd. “The expansion of our drone program builds upon the innovative work we have done over the last decade to strengthen and modernize our system.”

For these purposes, ComEd went with Skydio Drone Dock technology. Each drone will be equipped with high-resolution cameras and thermography tools capable of collecting images, video, and comprehensive data for assessment. Operation is allowed by waiver permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates commercial drone operations. The agency will also provide the certifications for ComEd pilots.

As of last year, ComEd also began using drones to support vegetation management. They also factor into power line inspection and storm damage assessment. The technology is currently stored at ComEd’s Chicago Training Center for pilot training. Additional docks are expected later this year throughout ComEd’s service territory.