DURANT, Okla. — The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), in collaboration with Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) and AiRXOS (part of GE Aviation), have conducted transmission power line inspections and advanced operations using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS or drones) on PSO’s Pittsburg-Valliant 345-kilovolt transmission line at CNO-owned property in rural southeastern Oklahoma. Drone use is being evaluated in field tests for use in routine inspections, and for emergency response and storm damage assessment of transmission lines.
This collaborative effort between CNO, the Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) and AirXOS is part of the FAA UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP). The CNO site is one of nine IPP sites selected by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in May 2018.
Recent testing and demonstration with Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations focused on safe, automated flight using visual observers and data capture. Another series of planned test flights will incorporate Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) testing, without any visual observer operations, in late 2019 or early 2020. In late 2018, Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) field tests were also conducted at this location.
“The successful completion of this night-time operation gave us a great opportunity to work with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and leverage a new technology,” said Peggy Simmons, president and chief operating officer, PSO. “Using innovative approaches like this helps ensure continued efficiency and reliability of the energy grid, which ultimately benefits our customers.”
PSO and AEP Transmission are operating organizations of American Electric Power Company, the largest builder, owner, and operator of transmission lines in the U.S. The team will continue to evaluate the feasibility of extending these operations into other parts of Oklahoma, as well as the other ten states where American Electric Power operates.
“The Choctaw Nation continues to be excited to work with the FAA, along with PSO, AEP Transmission, and AirXOS, as we begin to foster innovation and utilize a new technology in today’s world,” said James Grimsley, Executive Director of Advanced Technology Initiatives of Choctaw Nation’s Division of Strategic Development.
“Creating safe, scalable, and repeatable transmission and distribution drone inspections are vital to enterprises like PSO who need better and faster data, greater efficiencies, and lowered risk from their inspections,” said Ken Stewart, CEO, AiRXOS. “Choctaw Nation and PSO have worked well together in this effort – proving that advanced operations like BVLOS, and at night, will deliver significant value for future transmission and distribution inspection operations. We’re proud to support this work with our Air Mobility Platform, and are looking forward to extending operations that will continue to set the stage for the future of T&D inspections.”