FERC Natural Gas 101 February 22-23 Houston, TX

UAS For Electric Utilities

November 18-19, 2019, Denver CO

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This conference gathers industry experts to discuss all the important topics relevant to UAS use for electric utilities. An FAA UAS expert will discuss rules and regulations pertaining to UAS and their implications to the utility industry, as well as the role of UAS in emergency response. Xcel Energy’s UAS Program Manager will provide new updates regarding their program, including Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS).

Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A panel with UAS experts. They will discuss cutting-edge UAS technologies including updates regarding data collection, storage and processing, and automating the data lifecycle. Don’t miss the chance to meet with industry experts and have all your questions answered!



8:00 – 8:30 a.m. :: CASE STUDY: PG&E Case Study on Developing UAS Program

  • The business case for developing our program
  • The journey from business case to program implementation
  • Our UAS program: Past, present & future

Jim Kent, Director-Aviation Services, PG&E

8:30 – 9:15 a.m. :: FAA Presentation: UAS Rules & Regulations

  • Operating a drone under 14 CFR Part 107
  • Updates & changes
  • Impact on the utility industry
  • Waivers

Al Brunner, Aviation Safety Inspector – UAS, FAA

9:15 – 10:00 a.m. :: CASE STUDY: Effectively Developing UAS Operations Throughout an Organization

As UAS increasingly become more of a common place throughout various industries by aiding in inspection, surveying emergency response, site security and many other applications; the utility industry has begun to fully adopt UAS to incorporate the technology into all areas of the business to increase safety and create efficiencies by reducing both cost and time associated with traditional means of inspection, surveying and other applications. As with any new technology and/or process, individuals tasked with incorporating UAS into everyday operations and various lines of business face unique challenges while building out an internal UAS program. This presentation will dive into strategies on how to best address these challenges, and overcome many of the typical roadblocks individuals face while building out and applying UAS operations within the utility industry.

Mike Kelly, UAS Coordinator, Evergy

10:30 – 11:15 a.m. :: CASE STUDY: Tennessee Valley Authority

TVA’s UAS program began as continuous improvement project and has now moved into the implementation and execution phase.  This process has involved use case exploration and development across multiple business units.  Indoor, GPS denied flights have shown especially high ROI, as well as safety enhancements.  This presentation will touch on these topics, as well as the program moving forward.

Walt Hodges, Manager UAS Operations and Training, Tennessee Valley Authority

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. :: CASE STUDY: Xcel Energy

  • Current updates to Xcel Energy’s UAS program
  • UAS for structure and ROW inspection
  • What Xcel has accomplished when applying for waivers

Eileen Lockhart, UAS Program Manager, Xcel Energy

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. :: Group Luncheon

1:00 – 1:45 p.m. :: UAV Inspections web-portal & Analytics 

Honeywell has been serving customers in utilities and oil-gas industries with inspections and data-analytics. With an increase in the UAV usage, which results in massive amount of data, Honeywell is developing tools for large scale data-management and analytics. Honeywell will present data management tools, with a utility focus.

Shailendra Singh, Director, Business Development, Honeywell

1:45 – 2:30 p.m. The Integration of UAS into Routine and Emergency Operations

  • AEIC best practices
  • Routine inspections for transmission and distribution operations
  • Storm restoration response
  • UAS and mutual assistance between utilities
  • Using UAS to support pole line construction activities

Bobby Hawthorne, Manager, Southern Company

3:00 – 3:45 p.m. :: CASE STUDY: Exelon Aerolabs Case Study on Drone Usage

Exelon Aerolabs is dedicated to reliability, safety, and efficiency improvements with more effective inspections. This session will discuss Exelon Aerolabs’ drone usage in areas such as fleet management, automated flight, and data security.

Ron Cardwell, CEO, Exelon Aerolabs

3:45 – 5:00 p.m. :: PANEL: Hot Topics & Practical Considerations: UAS Integration into the Utility Industry

Stan McHann, Senior Research Engineer, NRECA

Mike Kelly, UAS Coordinator, Evergy

Bobby Hawthorne, Manager, Southern Company

Craig Stenberg, Sr. Project Manager: Remote Sensing and UAS, Southern California Edison


8:30 – 9:15 a.m. :: CASE STUDY: Automated Inspections via AI Driven Machine Vision

  • Using AI / Machine Learning and Deep Learning to augment anomaly detection during inspection
  • Coupling these technologies with Machine Vision
  • Southern California Edison’s current UAS program

Craig Stenberg, Project Manager: Remote Sensing and UAS, Southern California Edison

9:15 – 10:00 a.m. :: CASE STUDY: NASA’s UAV Power Line Inspection Work

  • UAV based powerline inspection
  • Autonomous corona detection
  • Autonomous path planning
  • Flight corridor compliance
  • UAS traffic management

Nicholas Rymer, Research Engineer, NASA Langley Research Center

10:00 – 10:30 a.m. :: Morning Break

10:30 – 11:15 a.m. :: Integrating Drone Technology into Utility Operations: Lessons Learned Testing and Integrating Drones with Distribution Utilities

NRECA has been working with utilities with a drone test platform to research best practices to allow utilities to take advantage of the technology. As we fly more missions at operational utilities, we have learned some tough lessons about software integration, selecting the right drone and sensor platform, and ensuring a utility is meeting all the FAA regulations and requirements.

  • NRECA is working with its member utilities, and the drone industry, to separate the hype, myth, and promise of drone technology to what is practical, sustainable, and implementable at a utility
  • This presentation will give a good overview on how to select the right platform, how to integrate the technology in the utilities daily workflow for inventory, inspections, and assessments, and give some insights on how best to work with the FAA.

Stan McHann, Senior Research Engineer, NRECA

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. :: Automating the UAS Data Cycle

Sharper Shape recently spent almost 5 months working on the largest drone inspection project ever attempted by an American utility. Throughout this long and arduous project the company learned a great deal about how to operate a drone project of this size. We came away from the project convinced that it is what you do before the project starts that matters most. Before undertaking a large drone inspection program, many questions must be answered:

  • What exactly are the program’s goals?
  • Who are the qualified vendors and what are your standards for remote pilots?
  • How can you structure compensation in order to incentivize productivity without compromising safety?
  • What drones would be acceptable?  What cameras?  Or is it a case of meeting a certain resolution requirement?
  • How do you keep track and communicate with a widely dispersed workforce?
  • How do you transfer data and maintain a tight chain of command for digital assets?
  • What is your stakeholder communications plan and how will you coordinate with environmental groups, private property owners and government entities?

During this presentation, Sharper Shape will share lessons learned while working on this ground-breaking UAS project. Examples of the results achieved, and challenges overcome will provide valuable insight for any utility company or UAS operator looking to perform UAS inspection operations at industrial scale.

Chris McMurtry, Solutions Architect, Sharper Shape

12:00 p.m. :: Conference Adjourns