Johnson City Power Board gets drones; but they’re grounded for now

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – A local utility company will soon use drones to improve work efficiency and safety.

The Johnson City Power Board bought two, Phantom 3 drones last month. The unmanned aircraft cost about a thousand bucks each.

“Everytime a man leaves the ground, he’s taking a chance with his life and if we can reduce those opportunities by using new technology, then we feel like it’s our responsibility to do that for our employees,” said Mark Eades, Johnson City Power Board.

The drones will be able to safely check power lines and poles for damage or problems, but the board can’t use the unmanned aircraft for official business or commercial purposes until it applies for and receives a certificate of authorization from the FAA.

“It’s easier for us to put the drone up and have it look around for us rather than bringing two men and a bucket truck and having them serve the same purpose so financially, we think the drones will pay for themselves within the first couple of months,” said Eades.

The JCPB says it will have the required, FAA paperwork needed to fly their drones in about 60 days.

Under current FAA regulations, all unmanned aircraft weighing between half a pound and 55 pounds must be registered. Anyone caught flying an unregistered drone could face civil and criminal fines of up to $250,000 and three years in jail.

Registration costs five dollars and is done online at: www.faa.org

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