Soon drones will be helping to repair Honolulu's electric lines.
Hawaiian Electric Co. said Wednesday it will begin using unmanned aircraft, or drones, for outage response and disaster recovery.
The electric utility said the devices allow the company to quickly and cost-effectively inspect its equipment. Drones will also increase employee safety because they can be used in remote and difficult-to-reach areas.
Mike Elliott, owner of Drone Services Hawaii, said the utility's use of drones will help remedy problems before they occur.
"The electric company is working hard to be proactive," Elliott said.
He said the devices can also be used to inspect roofs prior to installing solar or map out terrain, and that the thermal camera systems on drones can detect problems with transformers or insulators before they fail.
"You can fly over a substation to see if there is a hot spot or potential damage occurred," Elliott said. "It helps make things a lot quicker and safer. To be able to inspect areas that are a little more remote, it saves a lot of time, especially if there is major storm damage."
HECO will be hosting a demonstration today of half a dozen drones of different sizes and capabilities.
The event will be held at HECO'sWard Avenue facility public parking area located across from the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.
Colton Ching, vice president for energy delivery at HECO, will present the drones.
HECO joins a variety of organizations in the state using drones.
The University of Hawaii at Hilo previously obtained permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to use a drone to map the Puna lava flow. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' Collaborative Center for Unmanned Technologyused drones earlier this year for up-close assessments of marine health.
The FAA relaxed its rules for commercial drone use in June, making them more accessible to businesses.
The FAA's operational rules for the routine commercial use of drones that weigh less than 55 pounds require users age 16 or older to obtain a "remote pilot certificate" by paying $150 and passing an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved test center.
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