SMUD says it will notify nearby residents and businesses prior to flights.
The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California is partnering with PrecisionHawk to acquire aerial imagery for routine maintenance in monitoring and analyzing electric overhead transmission facilities and vegetation along rights-of-way in Sacramento and El Dorado counties.
At yesterday’s demonstration, media outlets in Sacramento were able to see firsthand SMUD’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which SMUD says deliver significant operational efficiency and improved safety for the electricity company, its customers and neighbors, and its employees.
According to the electricity company, much of the urban forest has been damaged by years of drought and other factors; in turn, dying trees can fall into transmission lines and create public safety and electric reliability concerns.
In an effort to alleviate privacy and safety concerns, SMUD says it will notify nearby residents and businesses prior to the flights. The information gathered is limited only to SMUD’s infrastructure and rights-of-way.
One of the largest opportunities for drone implementation is utility inspection. However it represents a complex legal and public relations challenge since utility lines often abut or cross private property. Flying drones close to or over private property has the potential to concern businesses and homeowners alike. To say nothing of the risk of provoking an altercation.
Coming up with suitable policies – whether using a drone flying EVLOS, or a lineman inspecting storm damage, represents a significant challenge and a potentially insurmountable barrier to adoption. Trials such as this one will help to establish best practices and lay the groundwork for more ambitious efforts.
The idea of hosting a media event, effectively enlisting the press in helping to socialize the idea suggests that the District has taken a thoughtful approach to managing public opinion.