Minnesota-based Xcel Energy is the first company in the nation authorized to operate drones beyond line-of-sight, and they’re using them to inspect transmission lines in Colorado and will likely start doing the same in Minnesota sometime next year. Senior Vice President Michael Lamb says safe airspace is a prime mission and they’re working with the F-A-A to ensure that. He says it’s “not unlike an air traffic controller…. In addition, the drone is equipped with technologies that, if it gets lost, it knows how to land safely. If it fails, it knows how to safely land without hitting anything.”
Lamb says for inspecting transmission lines, drones are one-fifth the cost of helicopters or foot patrols — and they provide more detailed data and reduce safety hazards.
The 35-pound drone is operated by licensed pilots.