Kansas to inspect power lines with drones

US, Kansas: The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) received permission to conduct the first-ever beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone operation in the nation leveraging only onboard detect-and-avoid systems.

In a collaborative effort between Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus (K-State Polytechnic), Westar Energy, Iris Automation and KDOT, the Kansas IPP team will fly a 14 km (nine mile) track to evaluate technologies to inspect power lines in rural Kansas. This approval is the first of its kind for long line linear infrastructure and is the first step to enable routine commercial infrastructure inspection across the state.

“The ability to fly BVLOS missions without ground-based radar or visual observers is a significant advancement, and Westar Energy views this as an opportunity to play a key role in shaping the future of UAS operations within the utility industry,” says Mike Kelly, Westar Energy senior UAS coordinator. “Being able to operate under this waiver allows the Kansas IPP team the ability to research and develop truly scalable BVLOS UAS operations for the automated inspection of linear infrastructure.”

The Applied Aviation Research Center on the K-State Polytechnic Campus will be responsible for the training and flight operations with a cross-functional team from the KDOT IPP. Flights will take place over the next few months, providing the FAA with much-needed data on true BVLOS activity.

“We look forward to leveraging this waiver to integrate UAS technology into the transmission line inspection process,” said Kurt Carraway, UAS Executive Director of the K-State Polytechnic Applied Aviation Research Center. “We are certain that utilities will be able to quickly realize a return on investment while mitigating safety to their maintenance personnel and increasing the reliability of their infrastructure to the general public.”

Source: T&D World