AES Ohio partners with Sinclair College to modernize electric grid


DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — AES Ohio, formally DP&L, is going to new heights to make sure it provides reliable service.

Throughout the year the company works to prevent storm damage to power lines. With the help of Sinclair College and Sensefly, they’re now working to modernize that process.

“COVID provided us with a unique opportunity to look at virtual ways of conducting business,” said Rob Beeler, a business program manager and certified drone pilot for AES Ohio.

They’re using drones to inspect 1,700 miles of power transmission lines. Those lines deliver electricity for over one million Dayton residents.

“The drones allow us to get a new perspective and birds-eye view of equipment on top of poles and equipment that’s in the field,” said Beeler.

Now maintenance inspection work that would normally take one person hours to complete in a helicopter can be done in minutes. The drone is used to conduct overhead inspections, snapping photos from above to create a digital map of power lines across nearly 24 counties.

“The big advantage of this fixed-wing form factor is flight endurance. A normal drone maybe flies for about 15-20 minutes. This can fly up to 90 minutes on one battery, so it can fly for a very long time which makes it very efficient in mapping long stretches of the corridor,” said Alexander Catalan, a program technician at Sinclair College’s National UAS Training and Certification Center.

Officials said the new method comes with many long-term benefits.

“We’ll be able to extend the range of data collection we do and that will make the process faster and cheaper and more affordable for the utility and for our customers,” said Beeler.

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