Southern Company to Expand Drone Use (SO)

Southern Co (SO) is eyeing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), aka drones, to review damage after storms and complete routine power line inspections. (See Also: Southern Buys 50% Stake in Kinder Morgan Pipeline.)

Dr. Larry Monroe, Southern’s Chief Environmental Officer, said he expected drones to be a “game-changer” for his business. And thanks to a new rule from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Southern looks ready to deploy drones in myriad ways soon.

FAA officials recently approved a rule that will allow Southern to increase the number and types of UAS flights it can perform. Thus, this regulation could provide Southern with “new opportunities to improve safety and reliability, reduce costs and create better ways to serve customers,” according to the company.

The Impact of Drones

Drones may offer many benefits for Southern and its employees and customers, including:

  • Faster Storm Damage Recovery – UAS technology could make it easier for Southern to assess storm damage and accelerate the repair and recovery of power lines.
  • Improved Routine Inspections – With drones, Southern will be able to use “a better alternative for performing routine inspections of infrastructure such as transmission lines and towers,” the company said.
  • Enhanced Mapping and Surveying – Drones could empower Southern with advanced mapping and surveying capabilities that may help the company save both time and resources.

Furthermore, Monroe pointed out that drones ultimately could help Southern employees “work more safely, improve reliability and . . . deliver real solutions that meet [Southern] customers’ energy needs.”

Drone Use Expected to Increase

Southern serves more than 9 million energy customers across the Southeast, and the company’s expanded use of drones could help it gain a competitive advantage over its rivals.

Although drone use may increase among businesses in many industries worldwide over the next few years, Southern’s commitment to UAS technology now could help it gain an edge on the competition for years to come.

Southern noted it was among the first U.S. utilities to receive FAA approval to pilot drones and has been exploring potential UAS applications for more than a year. The company also stated it could deploy drones in a variety of ways—something that may help the business further enhances its day-to-day operations, bolster its employee safety and improve its customer support.

Read more: Southern Company to Expand Drone Use (SO) | Investopedia