First Autonomous Drone to Pass Level 5 Hurricane Testing For Emergency Response

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Percepto announced that it’s on-site autonomous drone has passed level 5 hurricane testing at the Florida International University Wall of Wind. The box can withstand winds of up to 155mph making it the most rugged AI drone-in-a-box on the market for all weather conditions. The drone platform is already able to land in high winds and in snow. 

The World Bank attributes 10% of power outages to hurricanes where the costliest of natural weather disasters that can leave direct damage to a power plant’s infrastructure and cooling towers in their wake. Moreover, this year’s hurricane season is forecast to continue the trend of being progressively worse every year. The innovation allows customers like Florida Power and Light (FPL) to react immediately in the aftermath of a hurricane, assessing and fixing any damage without endangering their staff, when the weather is still very challenging in the state where the most residents per year experiencing outages.

“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 safety; to quickly fly over it and understand what our conditions are…the safety of our crews is paramount.” Michael Dorr, lead pilot for Florida Power & Light’s Drone in a Box system.

FPL’s goal is to eventually put a drone-in-a-box at every substation, transmission yard, plant, and solar facility, according to Eric Schwartz, manager of FPL’s aerial intelligence response. “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 said.

FPL, one of the biggest energy companies in the United States absorbed $274 million of damage to its infrastructure in 2019 from Hurricane Dorian, leaving 160,000 customers without power. 

Percepto’s system is approved by the FAA for flights two miles Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS) and FPL’s waiver from the FAA enables the solution to cover the entire facility with regular, pre-programmed autonomous flights over the plant’s 11,000 acres. The Percepto Sparrow drones stay above 130 feet to avoid power poles and other obstructions. FPL has six drones installed in five different locations. By the end of the year, FPL will have two further sites using Percepto’s solution on the Treasure Coast, one in St. Lucie County and another in Vero Beach with a plan to deploy autonomous drones at all of its substations after that.   

“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” Dor Abuahsira, CEO of Percepto

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