HOUSTON - June 1, 2017 – Hurricane season officially begins today and CenterPoint Energy is gearing up by incorporating the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, into its Emergency Operating Plan (EOP). Drones could help expedite the company's ability to assess damage to its electric transmission and distribution system following a hurricane.
"We had the opportunity to test drone technology following last week's severe weather in Sealy, Texas, and see potential for drones to play a key role in storm and disaster response," said Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of Electric Operations for CenterPoint Energy.
"Obstacles such as downed trees or flooded roads make it difficult for crews to assess damage following a severe weather event, which in turn can hinder response and restoration time," added Mercado. "Using drones in areas that are inaccessible by foot to capture high-resolution imagery in real time will help us assess damage and deploy the right resources in the right places to restore power."
CenterPoint Energy has used helicopters in the past to assess system damage and will still use them as necessary; however, drones can typically be deployed faster than helicopters.
"We also urge amateur drone operators not to fly them following a natural disaster," said Mercado. "Doing so will not only hinder CenterPoint Energy's ability to assess damage, but may also interfere with the drones being used by emergency response agencies to assist in the recovery effort."
Outage duration could be two weeks or longer depending on storm severity
While CenterPoint Energy plans to use drones to help expedite damage assessment and restoration times, the company urges customers to have their own emergency plan, particularly if they depend on electricity for life-sustaining equipment.
"No two storms are alike, which makes it difficult to forecast what the exact damage to our electric system could be and how long outages could last," Mercado said. "Customers need to be prepared to be without power for two weeks or possibly longer, depending on the severity of the storm. If a storm is approaching and someone in your home depends on electricity for life-sustaining equipment, you need to make other arrangements to provide for those needs."
For information and resources on hurricane preparedness, visit CenterPointEnergy.com/StormCenter.