The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an association representing U.S. investor-owned electric companies, has teamed with Sharper Shape, which provides unmanned aircraft system (UAS)-based asset inspections, to further commercial UAS flights beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) for electric companies.
EEI and Sharper Shape are currently studying the business and regulatory dimensions of BVLOS flights and intend to apply with the FAA for approval of demonstration flights later this year.
Sharper Shape operates in Espoo, Finland; Palo Alto, Calif.; and Grand Forks, N.D. EEI says its members provide electricity for 220 million Americans and operate in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. EEI also has more than 70 international electric companies as international members.
“The safe use of unmanned aircraft systems can help electric power companies improve the reliability, resiliency and security of the power grid – which ultimately benefits electricity customers,” says Chris Hickling, EEI’s director of government relations.
Tero Heinonen, founder of Sharper Shape, adds, “We believe the EEI-Sharper Shape consortium will be instrumental in paving the way for the safe use of UAS for inspections. Having spearheaded the adoption of commercial BVLOS UAS flights for energy providers in Europe, we are excited to help develop a framework for large-scale and economic BVLOS UAS flights for all electric power companies in the U.S.”
Photo: Sharper Shape’s Next Eagle drone inspects power lines to detect dangers to the grid