QUINCY -- Ameren Illinois showcased its new drone program Tuesday with a live demonstration.
Launching the unmanned aircraft from a substation on South 36th, Kyle Maxwell, Ameren Illinois electric operations supervisor and licensed commercial drone pilot, maneuvered the DJI Phantom 4 drone south along the power lines for the handful of Ameren representatives and members of the media in attendance.
"There are a lot of applications for drones," said Riley Adams, Ameren Illinois Electric Initiatives manager. "One is obviously on storms."
Adams said drone use can signficantly decrease the length of power outages by speeding up the time it takes to survey areas with downed lines, particularly when the areas are shrouded by downed trees and other storm damage. Rather than entering the area to scour for a downed line, employees can immediately set to repair work once video captured by the drone has identified the problem.
"During normal operations, an engineer or line person can go out and look at a structure more closely, without sending someone up into the energized zone," Adams said. "Ultimately, it's a lot safer for the employee and it will reduce our outages for our customers."
Ameren Illinois has 40 licensed drone pilots across the state. Two drone pilots, each with their own drone, are based in Quincy.
"As we grow this program, we're finding new applications and new uses for drones that we didn't even think about in the past," Adams said.
The use of drones is indicative of a purposeful shift by Ameren to embrace new and expanding technologies.
"If we didn't, we would still be operating as we did 100 years ago," Adams said. "We're looking forward to being a proactive company, to try to identify the things we can use to reduce our outages, and when there is an outage, to make the response time a lot quicker for our customers. It means the lights are going to get back on a lot quicker, and we'll be more reliable overall."