Safety, Reliability and Restoration: ENWIN’s Leading Edge UAV Technology Will Benefit Customers and First Responders

September 7, 2016

Windsor ON: Windsor will be among the first cities in Ontario to benefit from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones, which are increasingly employed in the maintenance of hard-to-access infrastructure, across North America.

While many Ontario electricity Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) are exploring the potential for this equipment in assessing and maintaining electrical infrastructure, ENWIN Utilities Ltd. (ENWIN) has received a standing Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada, and is now fully licensed to employ the technology for infrastructure assessment and inspection.

Please join us to witness a test flight of the UAV over property adjacent to the A.A. Weeks Water Treatment Plant.

Who: ENWIN’s UAV flight team, Jean Pepin and Jim St. Louis Windsor Fire & Rescue, Chief Bruce Montone.

What: Demonstration of UAV in flight and discussion of how UAVs help with community safety and disaster restoration

Where: A. J. Brian Pumping Station (on the North side of Wyandotte, across from the A. H. Weeks Water Treatment Plant)

When: Wednesday, September 7, noon to 1 p.m.

After six months working with Transport Canada, ENWIN received a standing SFOC to fly drones for use in infrastructure inspection and maintenance. The utility can now begin to use the small flying machines routinely, to check transformers, powerlines and other infrastructure necessary to maintain the safety and reliability of the local distribution system.

ENWIN’s Manager of Distribution Jim St. Louis and Lead UAV Pilot, Jean Pepin will lead the ENWIN UAV Team, working within Transport Canada guidelines, under the conditions of ENWIN’s SFOC, which authorizes flight over public property and easement areas, photographing and transmitting images of the equipment and infrastructure owned by the utility.

“Our certification will be invaluable to both the utility and the community,” said ENWIN President and CEO, Helga Reidel. “The technology will allow us to get a good look, at close range, at powerlines and transformers, often detecting a potential problem before it becomes a danger.”

If the power does go out, the utility can use the unassuming mini-copters to locate and assess the cause, without the time and expense of sending out a crew and a truck. This will also improve response times, and help avoid potential emergency situations.

“Safety is always a top priority in working with electrical power, and post-storm scenarios are often fraught with danger,” explained Reidel. “With the help of drones, our employees will be able to assess damage safely and quickly, from afar.”

ENWIN has a long-standing record of working with first responders in the Windsor area, including Windsor Fire and Rescue Services and Windsor Police Services, and will be able to pass on information about electrical fires, downed wires and other potential hazards.

Longer-term benefits could include the early detection of potential electrical fires. Poor connections get hot, and drones equipped with infrared cameras are able to detect them and flag them for repair. Reidel anticipates that this could also benefit the City’s Emergency Management team.

Chief Bruce Montone agrees.

“The August 24 tornado gave us a chance to see ENWIN’s drones in action for the first time,” added Windsor Fire Chief Bruce Montone. “They have capabilities that can help prevent, assess and manage fires, as well as enhance our Community Emergency Management in the event of a declared City emergency.”

Employee safety was also a factor in ENWIN’s decision to employ UAVs.

In storm conditions, the drone can generate pictures of infrastructure located in impassable streets and alleyways, minimizing the need for employees to climb poles made dangerous by ice and snow or downed trees and wires. Workers entering these areas to make repairs will do so with a fully developed plan of action, based on the pictures that clearly show the extent and location of the damage and the danger.

Further benefits of working with drones include a reduction in costs related to infrastructure inspection, timely assessment, repair and restoration. Using them will free up skilled workers to repair and upgrade equipment.

UAVs are subject to Canadian Aviation Regulations, as are all vehicles flown over Canadian soil. Canadian Aviation Regulations require an SFOC for businesses, like ENWIN, that wish to operate a drone, for work or research purposes. This certification allows Transport Canada to ensure that operators can use their UAV reliably and safely.

The SFOC contains conditions specific to the proposed use of the drones, such as maximum altitudes, minimum distances from people and property, operating areas, and coordination requirements with air traffic services. These measures also ensure public safety and privacy.

Between 2010 and 2015, Transport Canada issued 5,679 approvals for UAV operations.

ENWIN Utilities Ltd. (ENWIN) is a licensed electricity distribution company, serving customers in the City of Windsor. ENWIN is also the licensed water system operator for the water system owned by Windsor Utilities Commission. ENWIN works with Windsor to provide a safe, reliable source of electricity and water for our community.