Xcel Energy is first US utility company using advanced drone technology

Xcel Energy is first US utility company using advanced drone technology

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Xcel Energy is making history with they way they are using advance drone technology.

It is the first utility company in the country to use unmanned aerial systems in a new way to survey transmission lines.

Xcel has used drones in the past, but the operator was required by the FAA to have clear sight of the drone as long as it was in flight.

Now, Xcel has permission to operate drones beyond the line of sight of the pilot.

This allows the company to send drones several miles away along transmission lines to detect any damages or problems before they affect customers.

Wes Reeves, spokesman for Xcel, said the company currently sends workers up in helicopters to survey their equipment.

"There's always that possibility that weather or something else could damage the craft or hurt somebody," said Reeves. "There are no people on this little aircraft. You don't want to damage the aircraft, but if it does become damaged, you don't have the fear of hurting someone."

Xcel is working with the company FLoT Systems, and researching to determine if the use of drones is more cost effective. Reeves said this advancement could lower the customers' utility bills.

Chris Vallier, CEO of FLoT Systems, said he understands drones have a negative reputation among some people, and assured these drones will not be flying over privately owned property.

"We're not out to look at anybody other than to try to help the health of the infrastructure."

FLoT Systems will be operating drones near the Potter County Substation through Thursday.

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