Power to the drones: Utilities place bets on robots; Rose Law Group Cybersecurity, Privacy and Emerging Technologies Chairman Troy Roberts, expresses support

By Stephen Jewkes, Christoph Steitz | Reuters

Flying robots that can travel dozens of kilometers without stopping could be the next big thing for power companies.

Utilities in Europe are looking to long-distance drones to scour thousands of miles of grids for damage and leaks in an attempt to avoid network failures that cost them billions of dollars a year. However, the technology faces major safety and regulatory hurdles that are clouding its future in the sector.

Snam (SRG.MI) and EDF’s (EDF.PA) network subsidiary RTE have tested prototypes of long-distance drones that fly at low altitudes over pipelines and power lines.

Italy’s Snam, Europe’s biggest gas utility, told Reuters it is trialing one of these machines – known as BVLOS drones because they fly ‘beyond the visual line of sight’ of operators – in the Apennine hills around Genoa. It hopes to have it scouting a 20 km stretch of pipeline soon.


“It is exciting that EU policymakers recognize beyond visual line of site drone operations in Europe is beneficial to society, and are working to make it easier for more entities to conduct such operations.”

~Troy Roberts