BGE will test use of drones to inspect power lines

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. will start testing the use of drones to inspect overhead power lines and poles. Recently a pilot program was started that will use drones equipped with cameras to do inspections that BGE workers now do from the ground with binoculars or by climbing poles.

The drones will take closer looks at pole level and above and shoot photos and video to check for damage or deterioration. During the pilot program, BGE will train employees to be federally licensed as drone pilots and determine which areas are best suited to the technology.

The pilot program will look at the impact drones could have on reliability and employee safety. It will get help from AeroLabs, the software research and development unit of BGE parent company Exelon that is creating smart drone technology.

Exelon utilities ComEd in Chicago and PECO in Philadelphia already use drones to inspect power lines. In early 2015, ComEd became the first electric utility to get Federal Aviation Administration permission to use the unmanned aircraft systems.

BGE said it invested more than $1 billion in electric system operations and maintenance last year. The utility inspected more than 40,000 wooden utility poles in Baltimore and Baltimore and Howard counties.