Dominicaon energy and Skydio, the leading US drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight, today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted Dominion Energy crucial approval to fly Skydio drones beyond visual line of sight. (BVLOS) to inspect power generation facilities in seven states. Dominion obtained the waiver in partnership with Skydio’s regulatory team under the FAA BEYOND program, as part of the Virginia team led by the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) with the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation.
Representing the democratization of advanced drone operations, the waiver allows individual operators – like plant engineers – to fly drones beyond their line of sight with unprecedented efficiency. It is not necessary to use a crew member or additional technology to detect manned aircraft. Skydio’s AI technology allows the pilot to safely fly missions near structures in a way that would be difficult or impossible with a drone using less sophisticated technology. As a result of this waiver, Dominion Energy – one of the nation’s largest energy companies – can conduct large-scale BVLOS operations to inspect more than 40 electrical facilities in Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina North, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
Dominion Energy first deployed drones in 2014, focusing primarily on identifying power line faults. Since then, Dominion has expanded its drone program to include approximately 50 drones and drone pilots serving multiple operational business segments. At power generation facilities, Dominion Energy drones take volumetric measurements and assess construction progress, provide surveying and mapping services, and inspect infrastructure.
“A 20-minute inspection by a battery-powered drone will increase the safety of our colleagues, who will no longer need to rappel down the side of a structure, as well as save time during preparations related to the inspection,” said Nate Robie, Dominion Unmanned Systems Program Energy Manager. “As a pioneer in the use of drones beyond visual line of sight, Dominion Energy is contributing to a safer and greener future, as well as the potential reduction in operating and maintenance costs, which which ultimately benefits our customers.”
Dominion Energy will perform these operations using Skydio X2, the ultimate smart aerial tool for business applications. Skydio X2 combines a rugged, foldable cell with Autonomy Skydio, the world’s most advanced AI-based autonomous flight engine, which allows Skydio drones to navigate safely in any environment, including areas without GPS, avoiding obstacles in 360°. Designed, assembled and supported in the USA, the Skydio X2 also meets the demanding supply chain and cybersecurity requirements necessary for critical infrastructure inspection.
“This crucial approval brings Dominion Energy, Skydio and the entire drone industry closer to large-scale, advanced drone operations,” said Jenn Player, Skydio’s Director of Regulatory Affairs. “When it comes to evolving beyond visual line of sight, having a smart drone makes all the difference and Skydio was proud to support Dominion Energy in securing this waiver which allows them to inspect facilities of crucial importance.”
MAAP runs Virginia’s BEYOND team and other major federal UAS integration efforts, and their work has consistently led to significant milestones permissions and operations that have moved the industry forward. They work with the FAA, other federal agencies, and leading companies on basic research and advanced testing, connecting industry goals and regulatory priorities to develop practical, powerful, and evidence-based solutions that set new precedents and lay the groundwork for expanded operations.
“Two major goals of the research we conduct as an FAA-designated test site are to help companies like Dominion develop practical ways to use drones to make their operations safer and more efficient, and to work with drone companies like Skydio to find opportunities to harness the real power of their technology to enable new types of operations,” said Tombo Jones, Director of MAAP. “This waiver achieves both of those things and is a real win for us in our BEYOND program efforts, and we’re excited to see the difference it will make for Dominion and Skydio now, and what it lays the foundation for in the future.
About Dominion Energy
About 7 million customers in 13 states power their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy (NYSE:D), headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. The company is committed to providing sustainable, reliable, affordable and secure energy and to achieving net zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions from its power generation and gas infrastructure operations by 2050. Please to visit DominionEnergy.com to learn more.
Skydio is America’s largest drone manufacturer and the world leader in autonomous flight. Skydio uses revolutionary AI to create the world’s smartest flying machines for consumers, businesses and governments. Founded in 2014, Skydio is made up of leading experts in artificial intelligence, robotics, cameras and electric vehicles from leading companies, research labs and universities around the world. Skydio designs, assembles and supports its products in the USA from its headquarters in Redwood City, CA to provide the highest standards in supply chain and manufacturing safety. Skydio is trusted by leading companies across a wide range of industry sectors and backed by top investors and strategic partners, including Andreesen Horowitz, Levitate Capital, Next47, IVP, Playground and NVIDIA.