PG&E asks drone hobbyists to be safe

Staff report

As recreational drones become increasingly popular, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is urging its customers to keep safety in mind when they fly any drone near or around electric power lines and transmission towers.

Recreational drones that touch overhead power lines can disrupt electric service to an entire neighborhood, start fires, cause significant property damage and potentially result in serious injuries if they lead to downed power lines.

Just recently, a PG&E spokesman said, about 1,600 customers in the Mountain View area were without power for nearly two hours after a drone struck a power line.

“Flying a drone has become a popular hobby for families, but safety can’t be ignored. While we want our customers and their families to have fun, we want to provide some basic safety rules to ensure that a fun hobby doesn’t become a hazard that endangers them, their loved ones or the community,” said Pat Hogan, senior vice president of PG&E Electric Operations.

Those safety tips include:

n Learn how to fly your drone via an online course or by becoming a certified drone pilot.

n Practice flying the drone in an area that is away from people, vehicles, houses and trees.

– Never fly a drone near power lines, power poles and other electric equipment.

– Keep your drone in sight to make sure you’re aware of any potential hazards.

– Don’t fly in bad weather, such as high winds, fog or rain.

– Stay clear of low-flying airplanes and helicopters.

– Do not try to retrieve a drone that becomes entangled in power lines or a transmission tower.

– If your drone hits PG&E electric equipment, causing power lines to fall or equipment to spark, call 911 and then PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.

Drones, also known as an Unmanned Aircraft System, or UAS, are quickly becoming an essential tool for industry.

For example, in July, PG&E announced that it has received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin testing drones to inspect its electric, gas and hydropower facilities. PG&E’s drone operators or contractors are fully licensed.

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