Florida Power & Light touts benefits of drone program

FPL representative: Drones help utility company crews access areas after storms

PLANTATION, Fla. – If you see a drone flying close to your home, don't be alarmed. It may be Florida Power & Light. The utility company's crews are using drones to make sure your power poles are up to date.

Eric Schwartz, who oversees innovation technology for FPL, said the drones help crews to get a better vantage point.

"The only way for our engineers or our crews and team to access is to go in between every single person's back yard here and that's time and money and resources," Schwartz said. 

FPL's drone program has been in place for five years. Schwartz said last year FPL's drones flew more than 4,000 miles in Florida. Some customers were concerned about privacy, but Schwartz argues drones actually protect your privacy.

"It does help not be so intrusive to where we don't have to go into their backyard," Schwartz said. "We dont have to bother them if they have dogs and so forth, or bring in heavy equipment to be able to get up in the air to look at something."

FPL's drone pilots are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"We take six pictures per pole. We take five pictures around and up top looking down and then we take one infrared picture to look for hot spots at each location," Schwartz said. "So we can potentially predict when a piece of equipment is going to cause an outage or have an issue before it actually happens."

FPL also uses the drones for a quicker response during storm recovery. Schwartz said the drones help crews access flooded areas and areas where fallen vegetation is blocking the road.

"During Irma we brought in over 70 drone pilots," Schwartz said. "Within 10 days, we flew over 1,300 flights."