Indiana Utility Uses Drones for Power Line Inspections

The Northern Indiana Public Service Company will deploy small unmanned aircraft systems to identify any repair or maintenance that's needed on its energy infrastructure throughout Northwest Indiana.

by Joseph S. Pete, The Times / February 3, 2020
Shutterstock/Andy Dean Photography

(TNS) — That drone flying over your neighborhood is likely on the lookout for tree branches getting too close to power lines.

NIPSCO is now using drones to inspect its overhead power lines and other electric infrastructure.

The Merrillville-based utility plans to deploy small unmanned aircraft systems to identify any repair or maintenance that's needed on its energy infrastructure throughout Northwest Indiana. A Federal Aviation Administration licensed pilot will fly NIPSCO's drones, which will take aerial pictures of power lines, electrical substations, transmission towers and any vegetation that might need to be cleared.

NIPSCO hired Orbital Technical Solutions to do more than 200 miles of inspections in south Hammond, LaPorte and Michigan City during the first three months of this year, with plans to expand the program in the future. Pilots no more than one-fourth of a mile away will fly the drones 50 feet to 100 feet off the ground in airspace by NIPSCO power lines.

"Inspection routes may require drones to be flown over public and private property. The company will not take video of the selected inspection routes, nor will it sell any of the information collected to outside companies," NIPSCO said in a news release. "NIPSCO would like to remind the public that it is unlawful to interfere with drone operations or attempt to damage a drone during a flight operation."

The utility plans to announce the flight paths of the drones in advance. The plans will be coordinated with local airports, cities and towns and other relevant authorities. The drones will only fly during the day and will not fly directly over anyone.

©2020 The Times (Munster, Ind.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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