Drones help fix outages after Virginia winter storm leaves thousands without power

virginia power storm damage drones

It’s been four days since a winter storm pounded Virginia with up to 11 inches of snow and left tens of thousands of residents without power. Crews at utility company Dominion Energy have been working tirelessly ever since to ensure a swift response to the outages. But with heavy, wet snow knocking down trees and making some areas especially inaccessible by road, drones have played a critical role in giving linemen a head-start on understanding what they’re dealing with.

“Our crews are working as quickly as they can to safely navigate icy roadways, road closures, downed trees, and tree limbs. In some localities, the damage is so severe that some areas are not even accessible by foot, in those cases, we are using drones to assess the damage,” Dominion Energy said in a statement Tuesday.

As of today, nearly 90% of Dominion users who lost power have got their lights back on. But officials are quick to point out that such rapid progress on restoration would not have been possible without the use of drones.

“It’s quicker, it’s safer, and it gets you access to areas that you might not otherwise get to until further into the restoration effort,” Kevin Curtis, Dominion’s vice president of electric transmission, explains why the company uses drones to deal with power outages.

Nate Robie, a drone operator from the company, adds:

We can get an aerial, above-ground view, cover more ground rather than just walking, and then we can direct the ground crew to where they’re needed.

Indeed, some of the rights of ways we’ve seen with this storm, crews wouldn’t have been able to walk down it and get access to the facilities until the tree crews got in and got the trees out of the way. “The drone, meanwhile, can navigate over top of all of that,” Curtis sums up.

Preparations are now underway for more inclement weather expected to move through parts of Virginia on Thursday night.

Read more: Autonomous drones to respond to gunshots in new policing system

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