Southern Co. Expands Drone Program by Teaming with Skyward


U.S. energy giant Southern Co. is expanding its drone program through a new partnership with Skyward, a Verizon company providing a drone operations management platform.

Southern has been employing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) since 2015. Operating a self-dispatched model, the company maintains a fleet of more than 50 aircraft and 60 remote pilots across its business units with use cases in generation, distribution, transmission and storm damage assessment.

Skyward says its platform will significantly improve Southern’s UAS asset management and situational awareness and will provide streamlined access to controlled airspace through the Federal Aviation Administration’s LAANC initiative, for which Skyward is a service provider.

Notably, according to Skyward, Southern will be able to further develop its internal command and control application for future beyond visual line of sight operations.

“Southern Co. is leading the energy industry in deploying state-of-the-art drone operations technology and innovating their processes,” says Mariah Scott, president of Skyward. “Skyward is proud to help Southern Co. fly in more ways and in more places and looks forward to continuing R&D work.”

“Southern Co. is proud to build the future of energy, and deploying new technologies keeps us in the forefront of the industry,” adds Dean Barefield, Southern’s UAS program manager. “We chose Skyward because we needed a partner with roots in aviation and computer science, as well as the depth of regulatory knowledge, to improve efficiency in managing our extensive nationwide operations.

“Using Skyward, we are excited to unlock use cases for flying beyond visual line of sight and capturing the full potential of drone technology. We’ve already proven strong ROI using drones, and partnering with Skyward is the next step to furthering our leadership in the energy industry,” he adds.

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