Southern Company, a prominent energy company, announced today that it has obtained Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to remotely launch and operate drones at Alabama Power's James M. Barry Electric Generating Plant in Bucks, Alabama.
This milestone waiver, the first of its kind for the company, allows Southern Company to conduct advanced "beyond visual line of sight" (BVLOS) operations. With this authorization, Southern Company's operators will utilize drones to map and inspect critical infrastructure such as stacks, transmission lines, and basins at the Plant Barry facility. By employing remotely operated dock-based drones instead of traditional manual inspection methods, Southern Company aims to enhance safety, efficiency, and productivity in recurring inspections while gaining valuable, high-quality data.
Harry Nuttall, Director of Aerial Services for Southern Company, expressed excitement about the waiver, stating,
"Obtaining this waiver will help Southern Company continue to lead the energy industry in deploying state-of-the-art drone operation technology and elevating their processes." Nuttall highlighted the cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and safety benefits that drone technology brings to Plant Barry.
In collaboration with Skydio, a leading autonomous drone solutions provider, Southern Company will undertake these operations. Skydio's regulatory team played a crucial role in securing the BVLOS waiver. Leveraging the Skydio 2+ drone solution, which offers 360° obstacle avoidance, GPS-denied navigation, and complete workflow automation, Southern Company operators can safely inspect the infrastructure at Plant Barry, even in complex environments that would pose challenges for less advanced drone technologies.
Steven Ford, Compliance Manager at Barry Generating Plant, expressed enthusiasm for the partnership with Skydio and Southern Company, saying, "It is an amazing process to develop our vision for autonomous flight and to achieve the BVLOS with Skydio and our Southern Company Aerial Services team."
Dean Barfield, UAS Program Manager for Southern Company, acknowledged the collaboration with the facility's employees, emphasizing their contribution in bringing advanced drone technology to Plant Barry.
Jenn Player, Director of Regulatory Affairs at Skydio, highlighted the significance of this achievement, stating,
"This pioneering approval represents a key milestone for Southern Company, Skydio, and the industry at large in realizing the full potential of drones through autonomy." Player expressed pride in supporting Southern Company in obtaining the waiver, as it enables safer and more efficient operations at Plant Barry through recurring remote drone inspections.
Southern Company's FAA approval for remote drone operations marks a significant step forward in leveraging cutting-edge technology to improve inspection processes within the energy industry. By harnessing the capabilities of autonomous drones and collaborating with industry leaders like Skydio, Southern Company demonstrates its commitment to enhancing safety, efficiency, and productivity at the Plant Barry facility.