The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently granted San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) a Special Airworthiness Certificate for a small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), allowing the utility to research, test and train flight crews on the UAS in a sparsely populated airspace in Eastern San Diego County. SDG&E is the first utility in the nation to be granted FAA approval for this technology.
Measuring 16 inches in diameter and weighing less than a pound, these small devices use a camera to inspect utility equipment and relay live images back to the controller. The UAS can access infrastructure that is difficult to reach for utility crews and alert them if repairs are needed.
“The unmanned aircraft system provides us with another tool in our electric and gas operations tool chest,” said Dave Geier, SDG&E’s vice president of electric transmission and system engineering. “This versatile technology would allow us to improve our response to emergency situations such as fires, as well as complete aerial inspections in remote areas that are otherwise difficult to access, and locate the cause of power outages faster. By using these devices, we hope to enhance the reliability of the energy network and promote public safety for the benefit of the entire region.”