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General Needs in Energy

colinjfischer

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Poking around this forum, it seems that energy might be a no-go for a small company.

Is this true?

What are energy's needs?

I know that LiDAR can help electric companies remain compliant with FAC-0003 (vegetation standards for power lines), and there is some discussion of Thermal remote sensing of solar panels. It seems that since the US is set to break its oil production record this year, there are opportunities out there. Combine that with the booming green energy field and it looks ripe for some air power.
 

Nitz

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As someone in the Electric Utility industry, I think there will be room for small companies but not for the big guys (Duke, PGE, SDGE, SouthernCompany, etc.). The big guys are doing contracts for hundreds of miles of line at a time which is more geared for manned flights or companies that have resources to get FAA waivers in hours (teams of lawyers and ex-FAA on staff).

Now, where you may find luck would be in the Co-ops and Public realm. Typically, they are operating on a much smaller budget with smaller staff, forcing them to find ways to accomplish all regulatory requirements while still meeting their customer demands.

There are 3 sides to energy: Generation, Transmission, and Distribution. Generation and Transmission are where the big $ is at, but boy its a headache. Most of those assets is considered 'Critical Infrastructure' which, unless you know what all the regulatory requirements are, will cause you a huge headache in how you capture, store, and transmit the data. You can't just throw those images into 'dronedeploy' and call it good.

If you want to stay away from all that headache, you could focus on Distribution (from substation to house). Pole inspections will be one that a lot of utilities will want to outsource, and most already do. The issue we run into now is that we can't see the pole top from the ground (duh!). What could be a perfectly find pole from the outside could be completely hollow but wouldn't know without looking at the top.

Apologize for the ramble :)
 

colinjfischer

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If you want to stay away from all that headache, you could focus on Distribution (from substation to house). Pole inspections will be one that a lot of utilities will want to outsource, and most already do. The issue we run into now is that we can't see the pole top from the ground (duh!). What could be a perfectly find pole from the outside could be completely hollow but wouldn't know without looking at the top.

Apologize for the ramble :)

No need to apologize, this is great.

I want to focus on the statement "We can't see the pole top from the ground". Could a contractor with a drone fly a series of geo-referenced photos taking images of the tops of the pole and provide an analysis? Would that be potentially valuable?
 

Nitz

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No need to apologize, this is great.

I want to focus on the statement "We can't see the pole top from the ground". Could a contractor with a drone fly a series of geo-referenced photos taking images of the tops of the pole and provide an analysis? Would that be potentially valuable?
Yes, it would. You could probably subcontract with other companies if you only wanted to fly the tops. The tops are the most costly because we typically would dispatch a bucket truck which, depending on state, would require at least 3 people. Not a problem until you realize the amount of time/effort it takes to unfold the truck, put on safety equipment, go up, picture, go down, remove equipment, fold truck then drive 150ft to next pole. You can see where the $$$ starts to add up.

I quickly found this policy on pole inspections if you're wanting to know more
https://cpsenergy.com/content/dam/corporate/en/Documents/PoleAttachments/Pole Inspection Guidelines.pdf

Here are some examples of contracts that go out for Pole Inspections.

UTILITY WOOD POLE INSPECTIONS & TREATMENT | BidNet
https://govtribe.com/project/wood-pole-inspection-and-treatment-services-

If you have any questions, I'm happy to help :)
 
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AH-1G

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Yes, it would. You could probably subcontract with other companies if you only wanted to fly the tops. The tops are the most costly because we typically would dispatch a bucket truck which, depending on state, would require at least 3 people. Not a problem until you realize the amount of time/effort it takes to unfold the truck, put on safety equipment, go up, picture, go down, remove equipment, fold truck then drive 150ft to next pole. You can see where the $$$ starts to add up.

I quickly found this policy on pole inspections if you're wanting to know more
https://cpsenergy.com/content/dam/corporate/en/Documents/PoleAttachments/Pole Inspection Guidelines.pdf

Here are some examples of contracts that go out for Pole Inspections.

UTILITY WOOD POLE INSPECTIONS & TREATMENT | BidNet
https://govtribe.com/project/wood-pole-inspection-and-treatment-services-

If you have any questions, I'm happy to help :)
Nitz, what are you looking for at the top?
 

Nitz

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Nitz, what are you looking for at the top?
Rot You'd be surprised sometimes that a pole may look perfectly fine from the outside, but then look at the top and find out the whole thing is hollow.

PoleTopRot.png

(Note: not my picture, just one I found)
 
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FatherXmas

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As someone in the Electric Utility industry, I think there will be room for small companies but not for the big guys (Duke, PGE, SDGE, SouthernCompany, etc.). The big guys are doing contracts for hundreds of miles of line at a time which is more geared for manned flights or companies that have resources to get FAA waivers in hours (teams of lawyers and ex-FAA on staff).

Now, where you may find luck would be in the Co-ops and Public realm. Typically, they are operating on a much smaller budget with smaller staff, forcing them to find ways to accomplish all regulatory requirements while still meeting their customer demands.

There are 3 sides to energy: Generation, Transmission, and Distribution. Generation and Transmission are where the big $ is at, but boy its a headache. Most of those assets is considered 'Critical Infrastructure' which, unless you know what all the regulatory requirements are, will cause you a huge headache in how you capture, store, and transmit the data. You can't just throw those images into 'dronedeploy' and call it good.

If you want to stay away from all that headache, you could focus on Distribution (from substation to house). Pole inspections will be one that a lot of utilities will want to outsource, and most already do. The issue we run into now is that we can't see the pole top from the ground (duh!). What could be a perfectly find pole from the outside could be completely hollow but wouldn't know without looking at the top.

Apologize for the ramble :)
You are correct about the regulatory requirements for 'Critical Infrastructure' being a pain. I work in IT telecom and had to go through a special class and be certified for NERC CIP (National Electric Reliability Council Critical Infrastructure Program) just to work on the phones in power plants and substations
 

PatR

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I’m afraid I have to disagree with FatherChristmas. The companies seeking drone operators are actually some of the big names he mentioned, largely because they have thousands of miles of transmission and service lines. In large part they are not developing in house operators but employing contractor agencies.

The regulatory environment referenced is indeed intense but drone operators never make physical contact with any of the transmission equipment. Well, some have managed to hang a drone on a line or tower but that has been due to lack of skill or poor operational practices, things the power companies look upon most unfavorably. They have extremely strict flight protocols that must be followed. Failure to do so sends an operator down the road. Utilities have also initiated minimum flight equipment and work flow standards.
 

FatherXmas

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I’m afraid I have to disagree with FatherChristmas. The companies seeking drone operators are actually some of the big names he mentioned, largely because they have thousands of miles of transmission and service lines. In large part they are not developing in house operators but employing contractor agencies.

The regulatory environment referenced is indeed intense but drone operators never make physical contact with any of the transmission equipment. Well, some have managed to hang a drone on a line or tower but that has been due to lack of skill or poor operational practices, things the power companies look upon most unfavorably. They have extremely strict flight protocols that must be followed. Failure to do so sends an operator down the road. Utilities have also initiated minimum flight equipment and work flow standards.
I think you have my post confused with Nitz, I didn't mention any companies, so not sure what it is I said that you disagree with..
The only power company I'm familiar with is TVA, they do all their power line inspections in house with helicopters. Last time I talked to the guy over those folks, they had no plans to ever start using drones.
 

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