Local power company uses drones to shorten outage waits for customers

CARTERVILLE, IL- No one likes a power outage. What if we told you new technology is helping a power company get you back up and running in less than half the typical time?

Drones are changing the operation of Ameren Illinois, one take off at a time.

“We can basically fly it, identify our problems, and then number two, find a good way to get into that problem.” Kyle Maxwell said.

Maxwell is the superintendent of electric operations and has been with Ameren for 16 years. He said doing things the old way often meant sending his coworkers into dangerous conditions.

“You’re kind of putting them in harm’s way at that point, because you don’t know what lies in the middle of that corn field.” Maxwell said.

Rather than do things from the ground up, Ameren is now using drones to check everything out from the air. With the addition of over 30 drones, Maxwell said safety is improving for his workers and customer wait times for power restoration are shortening.

“We should be able to mitigate problems quicker by using them,” Kyle said.

Ameren is working in partnership with Southern Illinois University. Safety officer and associate professor Mike Robertson said SIU is using a course the college developed to train the Ameren workers flying the aircraft.

“We want to keep manned aircraft away from unmanned aircraft. This course that we developed has been a great way to do that,” Robertson said.

While the drones are up and running, Kyle and his team look forward to the future of the technology and how Ameren will use it.

“I’m just excited for the what comes next, you know? This technology is growing so quickly, 10 years from now it’s going to look completely different,” Maxwell said.

Ameren says the drones will not invade customer privacy. They will be used only for utility, and will mainly be flown over rural areas.

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