Inspecting and maintaining equipment at our Essexville plant, Karn Weadock, was never an easy task. Gaining access for repairs was often too expensive or unsafe—until now. The power plant received its first drone in July to help perform inspections of boilers and other equipment.
Q. Why does Consumers Energy need a drone and who controls it?
A. The drone is a quadcopter (helicopter with four propellers) and is used by our Consumers Energy’s Boiler System Owners to:
- Enhance equipment reliability
- Spend less money on inspections
- Save customers money
Q. Where is the drone used?
A. The drone is currently used within the walls of Karn Weadock. Any use outside is against the law and forbidden. The quadcopter works in 4 simple steps:
- It travels by remote control and connects to the drone’s onboard computer.
- The onboard computer makes it easier to move the drone up/down, forward/backward, left/right and rotate left/right.
- It uses a Wi-Fi signal to send back first person video of our equipment from the onboard camera.
- The camera is connected to a smartphone or tablet to receive the first person video of our equipment. It also helps in movement control.
Q. How does the drone save customers money?
A. Spotting tube leaks and repairing general material conditions allow Consumers Energy to provide power straight to customers, instead of buying it at high prices off the market.
Surprising Uses for Drones
Drones are used across the country for a variety of positive reasons. According to National Geographic, drones currently play large roles in:
- Hurricane Hunting
- 3-D Mapping landscapes
- Protecting wildlife
- Searching and saving missing or injured people