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East County News Service

March 31, 2015(San Diego) – SDG&E has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use unmanned drones to conduct aerial inspections of its gas and electrical facilities in rural East County.

John Sowers, vice president of electric distribution operations for SDG&E, says use of aerial drones will enable the utility to respond quickly to emergencies and inspect lines and other facilities in remote, difficult to access areas. It will also reduce the use of unmanned helicopters, meaning less noise and lower costs. In addition drones will make it easier to find the cause of power outages, and protect employees’ safety as well as public safety, Sowers says.

The drones measure just 16 inches across and weigh less than a pound.  A camera mounted on each drone will relay live images back to a controller, alerting crews if repairs are needed.  This is considered particularly critical following a disaster such as an earthquake or wildfire.

The approval comes after SDG&E won approval last year for testing of drones to inspect electrical lines in East County. SDG&E is the second utility in the nation to receive such approval.