Florida will deploy drones from Israeli startup Percepto to help assess hurricane damage, The Times of Israel reports.
Percepto’s Sparrow drone-in-a-box system has been tested to withstand winds up to 150 mph, which will allow it to be used in the aftermath of a hurricane to look at ground damage.
The drone passed level 5 hurricane testing at the Florida International University’s Wall of Wind, which performs hurricane mitigation research by testing out technologies in high wind conditions.
On Thursday, Percepto announced its drone was the first one to pass this type of testing.
The company issued a statement calling Sparrow “the most rugged drone-in-a-box system on the market.” It can land in higher winds and in snow.
Florida Power & Light has signed up to use the drones, the newspaper reports. FPL has six drones installed in five locations with plans to add more by the end of the year, according to a statement the power company issued.
FPL’s aerial intelligence response manager Eric Schwartz said the company’s goal is to put a drone-in-a-box at every substation, transmission yard, plant and solar facility.
“We can fly every single day and use image recognition to be able to identify a potential issue and reduce the number of outages to our customers,” he told the newspaper.
FPL stated that after Hurricane Dorian in 2019, 160,000 customers were left without power. Using the drones, the company states it will be able to inspect damages and restore power quicker.
“As soon as the storm passes, we can have this up … inspecting our plant and knowing immediately what sort of damage we have so we’re able to get our power back on that much sooner … for a utility to be able to see our infrastructure in areas where we can’t get to safely; to quickly fly over it and understand what our conditions are … the safety of our crews is paramount,” Michael Dorr, a pilot for Florida Power & Light’s drone system, said in the statement.
The Sparrow drones fly above 130 feet to avoid power poles and other obstructions.
The drone’s technology allows power companies to react quickly after a storm without having to risk sending staff out into the field.
“COVID-19 has left critical sites such as power stations bereft of crucial staff, while hospitals and homes have become more vulnerable, isolated and dependent on their utility providers. For our customers, drones ensure minimal downtime despite staff shortages and in the worst weather conditions,” Percepto CEO Dor Abuahsira said in the statement.
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