Southern Company was the only utility represented in discussions about unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas that included sharing the company's innovative research and application of this emerging technology.
"Southern Company is identified as one of the industry leaders in the use of UAS," said Dexter Lewis, research and development engineer. "Our presence at CES and the expertise we brought were an opportunity to showcase how the company is using UAS technology as a solution to providing customers with clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy."
Lewis, who was invited to be a member of the panel discussion "Use Cases: Amazing Drone Benefits," spoke about the benefits of UAS for assessing weather-related damage to power lines and for routine inspections. "I was able to explain how by using UAS we expect to reduce the duration of storm-related outages, perform power line inspections more safely, potentially lower operating and maintenance costs and reduce environmental impacts," he said.
"We have a responsibility to share the positives of this technology, and CES provided us with an opportunity to do that," he continued. "So often, news coverage about UAS is about privacy concerns and people getting their drones into accidents. This panel was an opportunity to share the company's message about the benefits of UAS and to cast a more positive light on their uses - especially the value they can provide for customers."
Held each year by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the show is "the world's gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies," according to CTA's website. The CES schedule included three panel discussions on the following UAS topics: regulations, technology and use cases.
This year, more than 3,600 companies were represented in the exhibit space, the largest in conference history. "Everyone was unveiling their newest products, including the most recent UAS technologies, those with automation required for UAS to fly themselves, collision avoidance systems and other developments," Lewis said.
Later this year, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to propose new rules that may allow Southern Company and other businesses to increase commercial use of UAS. "We are looking forward to offering this technology to more of our business units in the future," Lewis said.