Atlanta Utility Company Introduces New Drone ID Tech

By Southern Company | November 16, 2017
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Southern Company Drone ID

Photo courtesy of Georgia Power

Two Southern Company employees developed a way to identify operator contact information on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) using a wireless connectivity chip that transmits a continuous data signal.

Signals on the patent-pending technology includes a unique identification number, a call-back key to contact the operator via phone or email, the operator's address, elevation and latitude/longitude data.

The data packet sends out an omni (360-deg) signal, which can be picked up through the wireless reception on a smartphone, tablet or laptop device. There is no need for the user to download any specific apps or programs.

The new drone identification offering came about from a company initiative to explore ways to leverage existing technology, such as UAS and other robotics, to help the electric utility industry increase worker safety, reduce operations and maintenance spending, and improve system reliability. During the discovery period, key challenges were identified around the need for real-time identification for drones flying in sensitive areas.

Southern Company Drone ID

An example of Southern Company's drone identification data. Image courtesy of Southern Company

While conventional aircraft have visible tail numbers as well as transponders that send out a continuous identification signal, UAS do not. Not knowing the operator of a drone becomes especially problematic when it nears sensitive environments such as airports, prisons, major sports venues, crime scenes and power plants. Typical tail numbers would be far too small for visual identification on drones.

Possible applications for this solution could pertain to hobbyists, photographers, real-estate surveyors, and government and environmental agencies.

Southern Company’s Energy Innovation Center in Atlanta investigates how emerging technologies can deliver an energy future that is clean, safe, reliable and affordable for its customers. With shifting product demands and technology advancing rapidly, the center has been exploring how new technologies can help provide greater customer service, achieve overall efficiencies in how it does business and look for new ways to make its customers' lives better.

Christopher Savage is the Intellectual Property Manager at Southern Company.

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