Drone company PrecisionHawk is joining forces with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to upskill the latter’s Part 107 drone pilot members. PrecisionHawk wants to teach NRECA drone operators how to inspect electricity transmission and distribution assets more safely and efficiently across the United States.
Electric cooperatives in the US power 56% of the nation’s landmass while owning and maintaining 2.7 million miles of electric distribution lines across 48 states. Roughly 300 electric co-ops currently use drones as part of their operations processes. And they’re the ones this upskill program aims to benefit.
Upskill drone pilot training for utilities
The 10-hour upskill program is designed to provide hands-on training, and as such, it will be conducted in the field. Part 107 drone pilots can expect to learn the dos and don’ts of flying safely in hazardous environments and emergency situations. They will also be taught the best practices for maintaining drone equipment and increasing its lifespan.
PrecisionHawk says that the course will ultimately test pilots on skill competencies specific to drone-led energy inspections and teach them how to efficiently run a single-pilot operation. Upon course completion, the participants will receive a certificate of accomplishment.
Developing flight skills and being able to use them in real-world situations are two different things, according to Stan McHann, NRECA senior research engineer and chief UAS pilot. He says:
This program assesses attendee’s UAS piloting skills and helps them understand the UAS sensors in a variety of complex environments. Participants who successfully complete the PrecisionHawk and NRECA skills assessment will have additional tools and knowledge to enhance their ability to complete data acquisition and utility inspection missions for their co-ops.
It should be noted that the skills assessment will be based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for drones.
Robert Henley, PrecisionHawk VP of Energy Solutions, explains:
Many certified FAA Part 107 Pilots lack live flight experience, and our program is specifically designed to give them hands-on field experience to help them carry out inspections of their transmission and distribution assets with greater confidence and higher levels of safety.
PrecisionHawk and NRECA are scheduling multiple training sessions in a variety of locations to officially launch the collaboration.