There are millions of miles of power lines strung across the globe, which are in constant need of maintenance. General Electric and Airware hope to aid in maintaining those lines, saving time and money by using drones and the cloud to inspect power lines.
The world's power lines are linked by tall steel structures known as transmission towers. If these Eiffel Tower–shaped edifices are knocked down or damaged, whole sections of a country can go dark. But conducting routine maintenance on these transmission towers can be costly, time-consuming, and even dangerous for workers. All are the reasons for exploring the use of drones to help with inspections. With them, utility companies won’t need to send human workers in helicopters or trucks to conduct manual inspections.
GE is working with fixed-wing drones, which can cruise along a line capturing images for about 15 miles before returning to the operator. The drones can spot vegetation growing too close or objects such as tall trees that could pose a threat in severe weather conditions. GE is hoping to use drones to help with inspections in order to reduce the incidents of power outages.
Drones have been used by the military for decades. As advances in technology have made drones smaller and more accessible, their potential applications are extending far beyond their use as war-fighters for the military or toys for hobbyists.
And people are taking notice. In December 2013, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos created a buzz throughout the tech world when he introduced the idea of using drones to deliver goods to online shoppers. The proposal sparked people's imaginations for how drones could be used commercially - bringing to mind images of city skies full of delivery drones carrying parcels to people's doorsteps.
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