Electricity provider Edison is turning to drones to inspect its electrical equipment across Santa Barbara County’s south coast. The company began with helicopters, but is likely to switch to drones after the end of the week.

The company has begun using helicopters and drones to regularly inspect its equipment in high fire-risk areas. Both the drones and helicopters fly during the day to cut down on noise and get better images of the equipment.

Edison has 1.4 million utility poles, making it a costly and time-consuming job, not to mention the danger associated with flying a helicopter near live wires. Local residents have reported the low-flying inspection helicopters, forcing the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department to put out a public notice:

We have received several reports of low-flying helicopters over Carpinteria and Montecito — they are contract surveyors for Southern California Edison.

Looking at the above issues with helicopters, it all points to drones being a great replacement. The drones keep workers on the ground. Using drones also lowers long-term costs.

Drones currently only make up around 25% of the inspections done by Edison, with the other 75% being completed by helicopters. A few years ago, this number was less than it is now. This is an exciting time to be working with drones as it’s a transition period to a new way of doing things. David Song from Edison noted that drones can get into nooks and crannies helicopters aren’t able to.

What do you think the future of drones will look like in the inspection industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo: Roberto Lazarte

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