After hurricanes, co-op drones hasten power restoration

Had Hurricane Harvey raked central Texas last year, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative members near the San Marcos River might have waited up to 10 days to get power back.

Instead, when Harvey caused the river to rise 25 feet in a single day, electricity was flowing in only a few days, thanks a co-op drone purchased just a few months earlier.

“It helped restore power way ahead of time,” said Ray Bitzkie, the Bastrop-based co-op’s facilities construction coordinator and head of its drone program.
In the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, co-ops put their drones to the test of a catastrophic weather event for the first time. Co-op officials said the technology passed with flying colors by pinpointing outages in hard-to-reach areas.

At Jackson Electric Cooperative, a co-op drone team from Pedernales Electric Cooperative flew 60 missions and inspected more than 1,600 poles in a service territory left in the dark by Harvey.

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