Westar drones helping keep power on, workers safe

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Drones are becoming more prevalent in many industries each day. Westar Energy is using drones to make sure your lights stay on.

The company has five drones to help workers in a variety of ways, like flying over substations to make sure everything looks right.

“We can zoom in up to 30 times and get information off a data plate that’s about as big as a business card or sometimes even smaller,” said Mike Kelly, senior unmanned aircraft systems coordinator for Westar.

Kelly said using drones is about preventing problems before they occur, and it’s also much safer.

“Not have to put individuals in harm’s way near this high voltage, energized equipment,” Kelly said.

Drones are also used inside powerplants in difficult to reach areas and can help out crews in the field.

They can show them greater distances like how wide the damage is from a storm.

“Where we have downed lines, how many poles we have down, and then relay all that information back to the field personnel so they’re more prepared before they go out in the field or while they’re out there, it just gives them a better situational awareness,” Kelly said.

“Help get information that wasn’t necessarily possible before.

Mike Kelly, Senior UAS Coordinator, Westar Energy

Westar officials hope to expand the drone program and believe it will positively impact customers at home.

“Using drones can help reduce the number of outages that occur on our system by inspecting equipment beforehand, and it can also help make outage restoration faster,” said Gina Penzig, spokeswoman for Westar.

Westar has five drones they use right now, each has a different purpose. One is used to create more accurate maps that help with construction, and another has thermal imaging to detect potential hot spots before a fire starts.

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