NYPA authorized to fly drones BVLOS for utility operations

12 April 2024
The drones to be used by the NYPA will be owned by Skydio including its latest X10 UAS. Source: Skydio

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has received approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly unmanned aerial systems (UAS) beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) within a one-mile radius in any unrestricted airspace.

The drones would be used to expand its capabilities for asset monitorization, canal assets and inspection of its electric infrastructure around the New York state.

Under traditional regulations, pilots are required to maintain visual contact with UAS, but the waiver allows operators to conduct missions without an observer to see the unmanned drone. This is important as it will allow for the visualization of assets remotely, improving safety for works and allowing for expediated inspections.

The waiver, obtained with the help of drone maker Skydio, authorizes operations through 2028 and is specific to Skydio’s drones.

“In the past few years, NYPA has significantly invested in its robotics program, understanding that drones can safely and quickly inspect assets that are critical to the delivery of clean power throughout the state,” said Justin E. Driscoll, president and CEO of NYPA. “The FAA-approved waiver will further expand the Power Authority’s asset inspection capabilities. NYPA is now well positioned as an energy industry leader to showcase the many uses for drone technology in our day-to-day electric utility operations.”

Next steps

The NYPA started using drones at its Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project in Schoharie County.

The program has growth from 40 pilots to more than 100 employees trained to operate UAS aircraft. The NYPA said the goal is to invest more than $27 million in the drone program through 2028 and is researching and testing new applications to implement drone use in day-to-day utility operations.

Currently drones are operated at various NYPA sites throughout the state to monitor for:

  • Asset health
  • Power line inspection
  • Vegetation management
  • Monitoring of overgrown trees
  • Spillway erosion mapping
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