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Expo 2018 Nashville Notes

Posted 4/1/2018

By R. Bruce Wright, CPCU

This is a short note on something I noticed at this year’s annual convention, not an effort to recap the entire event, but just something that struck me that relates to some conversations I have had with Hurtado Program participants over the past few years.

The subject of drones has been top of mind in many of the utilities I visit. While only a few have moved to purchase any, it seems that everyone is looking at them, discussing them and thinking through the pros and cons of operating them. My observation so far is that the rules on their use are sufficiently restrictive (pilot licensing, line of sight operations, altitude limitations) that most utilities don’t believe the benefits out-weigh the costs yet. And there are insurance implications too, as you have likely heard from me.

So it was interesting to see that this year there were even more vendor booths in the Expo hawking drones. But, this year was significantly different from prior years in one respect. This year, most of the vendors were not selling drones. Instead, they were offering their services, offering to fly the lines for your utility, or seek for issues, or trouble shoot. They wanted to become subcontractors just like a pole testing vendor or ROW clearing company. 

As you continue to consider the pros and cons of drones, this is an approach you may want to factor in to your thinking. I suspect that having a vendor handle the licensing and logistics of flying drones for inspections may be a more cost effective solution for most utilities than buying and operating drones themselves, and far less of a hassle for them too. This may be the way many of you get your first look at what this new technology can do for you.