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Texas Utility Launches Drones to Manage Facility Inspections

To better look after infrastructure, New Braunfels Utilities is using four drones to do inspections. The drones will not be used on private property, but will be flown around water towers and power lines, officials say.

by Bryan Kirk, San Antonio Express-News / October 7, 2019
New Braunfels, Texas Shutterstock/Regan Bender

(TNS) — New Braunfels Utilities has a new drone program they hope will reduce the need for significant manpower for facility inspections.

Mike Wiley, who is one of NBU's four FAA certified drone operators, said the utility provider has been looking into creating a drone program since about 2017 and believes this program will make NBU a more efficient entity.

"The will allow us this to inspect all our infrastructure," Wiley said. "We will use this to inspect our water towers, and we'll inspect power lines."

Before leasing the drone, NBU shadowed other utility districts that use a similar program, and immediately saw the benefits, such as personnel safety and time management.

"With this, within a couple of minutes, I can fly over without being on anyone's property without disturbing anyone, fly over the easements and take pictures of the infrastructure," Wiley said.

The drone, which NBU said will not be used on private property or flown over homes, will be used to monitor aging structures and facilities.

The drone will also fly over towers and lines that are currently under construction. This allows technicians to detect potential problems before they actually occur.

Wiley said NBU plans to lease another drone equipped with infrared technology to detect potential hot spots in the electrical lines.

NBU believes this new drone program will need to grow exponentially to keep up with the rapidly increasing population projected for New Braunfels and surrounding communities, Wiley added.

"We will fly this program for the first year and see where we're at, and expand as our town expands," he said.

Click here to learn more about NBU's drone program.

©2019 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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