This is an excerpt of an article by Mariah Scott, published by Verizon.

In February 2018, Corey Hitchcock traveled to Puerto Rico to assist crews from Georgia Power, Alabama Power and Mississippi power companies with power restoration efforts following the island’s devastation from Hurricane Maria.

This time, Hitchcock and UAS Pilots from Alabama Power and Georgia Power did something different. Together, they used drones to pull 72,000 feet of rope for conductor wire, saving weeks of time and an estimated $5.3 million. “Simply put, UAS got the lights on months faster,” Hitchcock said. “The traditional method for repairing downed wires was to shoot a pilot rope over a tower with a potato gun.”

Hitchcock is the chief UAS pilot at Southern Company, one of the largest public utilities in the United States, with over 9 million customers across 19 states. He is also one of more than 100,000 drone pilots who have obtained federal drone certification since the United States legalized drones for commercial use in 2016. Southern Company is part of a vanguard – one of the 10% of medium and large companies that have adopted drones to operate more safely and efficiently.

“Drones have changed the energy landscape in a way that I didn’t foresee when we first started using the aircraft around the company,” said Hitchcock, who runs drone standardization and operations for the company. “Initially, I thought that we were just going to do utility inspections on vertical infrastructure, and that was it. I quickly found out that construction, mapping, and coal pile analysis were other practical uses.” Read more here.