Minnesota energy provider Great River Energy has turned to Verizon’s Skyward to help scale its drone program. The company now has 11 certified drone pilots and a fleet of 13 aircraft used to cut down costs and improve workplace safety.

Great River Energy has had a drone program in place since 2015. Doing so required getting the whole company to jump on board of the idea of having high-tech helping hands in the sky.

Kyle Gustofson, UAS program manager at Great River Energy, shared:

Oftentimes with a new tool or technology, there’s the triple constraint: you can either do it better, you can do it faster, or you can do it cheaper — and you can only pick two. In this case, drones are a tool that can capture better data, do it cheaper, and do it safer. It’s a rare triple-win technology.

After getting companywide approval, the drone program was launched. In the beginning, it wanted to cut costs and improve safety. This was quickly achieved and resulted in the company finding more and more ways to use the drones.

Now that the program’s basis was set up, Great River Energy needed to scale it up to work across the state without any issues while also improving the program to get more out of the drones. This is where Skyward comes in. Skyward’s team flew to the Great River team to provide in-person training sessions for the pilots to get comfortable with the drones. The team also shared how they could start running their own internal training programs for future pilots.

Great River Energy was also set up with Skyward’s aviation management platform to oversee the entire drone operation, from flight planning and drone management to airspace access and real-time drone monitoring. Soon after the training was complete and the new platform was in place, the Great River team got straight to work. It began using the drones for transmission line inspections, structural photography, nest inspections, 3D mapping, thermal imaging, rope pulling, LiDAR, and marketing materials.

Looking into the future, Great River Energy hopes to have drones placed throughout its service centers, allowing field technicians to send up a drone during a job quickly. The company has also become a drone advocate by participating in industry events and helping others with their drone programs.

Photo: Skyward


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