Tary Combes is a line servicer who has been with AEP Ohio for 17 years. He had the unique opportunity to work with Ryan Coon, a senior technician and licensed drone pilot, to provide initial damage assessment in some tough to reach rural areas that were hard hit by the wind storm in June.

The pair was tasked with assessing a half-mile stretch in Bellville, one that Tary knows well — he’s patrolled it a dozen times and is familiar with it’s challenging terrain full of  large fallen logs, prickly chest-high briars and a downward slope. Fortunately, they were able to avoid the trek. Instead, Ryan carefully guided his drone along the power lines from a birds-eye view, taking photos, recording the location of damaged equipment to give tree trimming and line personnel all the information they needed to diagnose issues and schedule repairs. Ryan was able to finish the job in 20 minutes.

“It’s truly amazing how quick and seamless the process was,” Tary said. “I was very impressed by how easily the drone was able to accomplish what would have taken Ryan and I over an hour.”

Flying drones is not one of Ryan’s official job responsibilities, but he’s now operated them following two hurricanes, two ice storms and eight other severe storms. Coon and fellow technician Jake Quillen have formed a two-man drone team at AEP Ohio and are happy to tout the benefits of the technology.

“Drones are more efficient in a number of ways,” Ryan said. “One example is how they benefit our mapping: each drone connects to almost twenty satellites to create extremely accurate images.”

Ryan and Jake are working on how AEP Ohio can better incorporate drone technology into our everyday work to continue to find ways to better serve our customers.

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