A Strom Center 7 exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at AES Ohio drone technology is revealing how the Miami Valley power company’s leaders say they are more quickly able to restore electrical outages.
2019′s Memorial Day tornado outbreak proved to be the company’s initial test.
“This was the first big event that happened approximately 6-8 months after I got my license and we were just in the infancy of our program so it was only myself and one other employee,” AES’s first drone pilot Mark Gonet told Strom Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini.
Gonet said there was so much Harrison Township neighborhood damage and debris, AES crews could not perform foot surveys. That’s when the pilot said he flew his done.
“We were able to actually determine everything that we needed before we went in there before we brought crews in without ever even having to go down in the plat,” Gonet explained.
His sense of empathy, Gonet said, comes from personally understanding a tornado’s impact. The 1974 Xenia F5 tornado destroyed his childhood home when he was 9 years old.
“I was in a house that was blown away as a kid and we were very fortunate no one was hurt but it leaves a lasting impression because I lost some friends in that situation and I saw other severely injured,” he shared.
Since its’ inception, AES Director of Communications Maryann Kabel explained the company’s drone program has now grown to six pilots. Company leaders feel the technology keeps their crews safer while decreasing the time it takes to turn on customer’s electricity.
“There’s all kinds of obstacles and those impede their safety and with the drone you know it just helps and you can avoid those possible safety hazards,” Kabel said.
AES drones, Gonet said, can use two additional cameras for taking infrared images and zooming up to 180 times.
Gonet explained he has not needed to use the drone for another event as large as the 2019 tornado outbreak locally. However, if it is needed, the pilot said he is ready.
“It’s very eye opening, its emotional again the damage and you feel for the people and you feel for what they have been through and we’re just there to help and we want to get everybody back to normal as fast as possible,” said Gonet.
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