Market Overview

ComEd Is the First Utility to Receive FAA Approval for Operational Use of UASs

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ComEd announced that it has received approval from the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) to use innovative, unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), or
aerial robotics, to inspect its lines.

The UASs will be used on a trial basis to inspect and assess conditions of
ComEd's transmission and distribution lines as well as substations.
Additionally, the innovative technology may also be used following significant
storms to assess damage. The project is a joint effort with Illinois Institute
of Technology (IIT). While another utility has received permission to use UASs
for research and training purposes, ComEd is the first in the nation to gain
approval to use UASs as part of their ongoing operations.

"This UAS technology will allow us to be more proactive in identifying
problems before they interrupt power to our customers," said Terence R.
Donnelly, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of ComEd. "This
will be especially useful in remote areas that can be difficult to access and
will provide an added layer of safety for our workers by making it possible to
inspect lines without sending a person into a hazardous area."

The UASs will have a camera that can provide video and still photos and will
fly above power lines and substations to provide an in-depth look at the
condition of the system. In the future, ComEd hopes to have an infrared camera
mounted as well to identify hot spots on the lines.

"We are continually looking for innovative technology to improve reliability
and our customers' experience," said Donnelly. "Right now, we use helicopters
to inspect transmission lines. This initial test will help us evaluate
potential benefits of using UAS technology to supplement this work."

IIT will initially provide a licensed pilot for the partnership and is
evaluating a light, flexible cage around the UAS that may maximize battery
usage and protect the UAS.

"It's exciting to be working with ComEd to study robots in real-world
conditions," said Matthew Spenko, Associate Professor of Mechanical and
Aerospace Engineering at IIT. "From a research perspective, this will allow us
to learn more about how robots perform in unstructured, outdoor environments."

Looking forward, ComEd is also investigating the use of underground robots in
its manholes. Manholes present significant risks to workers. ComEd is working
with the Georgia Tech National Electric Energy Testing Research and
Applications Center (NEETRAC) to evaluate the feasibility of using an
underground robot to inspect complex underground spaces. The robot would be
deployed ahead of workers going into high risk manholes initially, and used
more routinely as the application of this technology advances.

"Mitigating hazards associated with working in manholes is a consistent theme
in the industry and reducing the time employees spend in these spaces is a
significant opportunity," said Donnelly.

ComEd is acquiring UASs and completing the necessary training of its pilots.
The utility is looking to launch the technology in the early summer.
Consistent with FAA instructions provided with the approval to fly, and with
ComEd's long standing practices, ComEd will work closely with municipalities
before flying UASs in their areas.

"The use of emerging technologies like UASs and other robotic technologies is
an important factor in ensuring the continued resilience of the power grid,"
noted Donnelly. "We are continuing to seek out innovative technologies that
will bring improved benefits to our customers."

Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon
Corporation (NYSE: EXC), the nation's leading competitive energy provider,
with approximately 7.8 million customers. ComEd provides service to
approximately 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of
the state's population. For more information visit ComEd.com, and connect with
the company on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Posted-In: News Press Releases

 

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