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Drone Use Compatible with Smart Grid Integrations

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Kimberly McKenzie-Klemm's picture
Industry Technical Writing and Editing, TPGR Solutions, LLC

After writing for since 2013, I hope to still bring education, interest, and current news/inquires to articles with the focus of keeping the energy communities best practices...

  • Member since 2013
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  • Oct 24, 2022

This item is part of the The Grid: Reliability & Resilience - October 2022 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

Drones are mechanical operating remote deployment encapsulated technological constructions. They can be built to function in the air, on land, or in water. Ariel drones are known as Unmanned Areia Vehicles (UAVs), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPASs), and Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUASs). Land and water drones might also carry various terminologies but the commonalities are simple, drones function without direct personal involvement from humans. Some drones are pre-programmed for their “missions” and are not even directed while active. Drone use in the Energy sector has become a forward technology application creating possibilities in maintenance, surveillance, and security. Each of these applications integrates with the Smart Grid and improves Energy systems communication integrations. When people hear the term “drone” they often think of military equipment and battleground skirmishes. The wide use of drones in other private and public arenas is often forgotten but has an indelible impact on modern industry and communications.

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Drones are built to function and communicate in a variety of ways. Drones' work involves communication integrations between their positions and a stable ground station or multiple ground station points. They require “an adequate data rate for fortifying real-time transmissions”. (1) This being the case, computers or persons operating drones must be equipped with significant comparative data transfer resources to sync drone information. Drones perform analyses, image captures, monitoring (motion sensing), high-speed data relays, and functional response tasking among other possible drone programming or built-in features. The Energy Community is capable of utilizing all of these functions to improve performance, customer service, and cost efficacy at the level of the Smart Grid. On the other hand, the interruption of drone functions and drone-caused disruptions of Smart Grid conduit effectiveness have been fighting with each other as caused by drone incompatibilities contributing to the distaste for a conversation in the Energy Community on drone Energy system use assimilations with Smart Grid evolutions.

The Energy Community could achieve communication integration improvements of drone GPS targeting components and data frequency transmitters with Smart Grid transfer wavelengths and electric field magnetics resistance capacitation. This compatibility integration would eliminate some of the issues of Smart Grid and drone competing functions that interfere with one another and cause electrical short-circuiting. “The US Government has through the legislative process created multiple federal legislative laws that apply to aircraft in general and also some that specifically address drones.” (2) In the US drone specific laws have targeted non-use in restricted airspace, build specifications for size, and licensing for private drone flight piloting. Laws for commercial private drone use are few. As the Energy Community along with other utilities and industries move forward with exploring drone use more legislation is to be expected for non-conflicting purposes. Around the Smart Grid issues of functional integration with drone use, expect laws regarding proprietary drones’ airspace rights, patent decisions for specific company drone custom builds, and penalties for “knocking” working drones to receive attention. Once technology incompatibilities between the Smart Grid and drones solve, legal attention will be required.

There are many possible uses for drones and ways to integrate their capabilities with the Smart Grid functionality. Equipment levels for maintenance reductions and response time manhour eliminations pass on to Energy Community customers benefits of drone system data relays. General area surveys and monitoring conducted by drones pick up on environmental threats not yet actively engaging the Smart Grid and give early warning decisions for protective measures a chance to prevent distribution and power flow disruptions. Security uses of drones engage threats to the Smart Grid with defense mechanisms built to keep attacks and other Smart Grid electrical field damaging factors, such as interloping wildlife, from causing Smart Grid problems. In case studies of Energy Utilities’ drone use for maintenance and surveillance, the findings were positive for faster communication of real-time power line down reports and environmental threat situational progress data regarding emergencies such as wildfires and pending hurricanes. Data and photos were produced by the drones and sent to the central Energy utility ground stations. This in turn drove efficient responses with less manpower time needed and faster repairs to power infrastructure damages. Smart Grid security decision drone-assisted decision-making also was tested by Energy Community case implementation. Drones showed GPS “spoofing” or inaccurate pinpointing and at times downed drones due to Smart Grid electrical field interference. Smart Grids reported power generation interruptions and shockbacks.

Speculation gives some incentive to the forward-looking idea that security measures around Smart Grid center points could benefit from drone protection if drones were backward-engineered to recognize the difference of the Smart Grid in-use transfer waves from incoming non-secure emissions. This type of differentiation by the Smart Grid protective drones would enable an emergency alert communication before Smart Grid complications or disablement from foreign elements and drones could even attack the source of non-authorized energy disruption without mistaking the Smart Grid for an enemy. Another way to integrate drone use into the Smart Grid system would be through blockchain platforms. “Blockchain can be used to cryptographically store all the data that is sent to/from the drones, thereby saving it from tampering and eavesdropping.” (3) This helps control the GPS “spoofing” effect and adds an extra layer of drone operation protection.

With drone energy fields and data relays protected and operable under communication integrated with the Smart Grid function compatibility, the Energy utilities have an opportunity to move field and communication operations in a new direction. The efficiencies, costs, technology integration improvements, and loss/recovery profit increases possible with drone integration into the Smart Grid systems are undeniably worth pursuing. It might be a few more years before the Smart Grid is completely identifiable by drone designation or before blockchain platforms connect with customized drone programming code without uniformity, but the journey of drones is not finished before the last trip and for now, drones are still flying high and driving forward. 


  1. Sharma, V., MDPI, “Special Issue: Advances in Drone Communications, State-of-the-Art and Architectures”. (February 23, 2019).

  2. Rupprecht, J., Drone Law and Drone Attorney Assistance, “Ultimate Guide to U.S. Drone Regulations”. (September 19, 2022).

  1. Hassija, V., Chamola, V., Agrawal, A., Goyal, A., Nguyes, C.L., Niyato, D., Yu, F.R., Guizani, M., ResearchGate, “Fast, Reliable, and Secure Drone Communication: A Comprehensive Survey”. (July, 2021). Courtesy of IEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 24, 2022

What I think is key is finding a natural extension where drones are the best solution and avoiding the pitfalls of wanting to use drones and simply finding the best application for them. Solutions in search of a problem can be more trouble than they're worth, but integrating smartly as you suggest could show promise!

Kimberly McKenzie-Klemm's picture
Kimberly McKenzie-Klemm on Oct 24, 2022

I believe you have that right! I can envision a future where a Fleet Manager has an AI group of drones as the fleet employees and field maintenance employee humans are the second wave of decision-making. One does not need to replace another. If we try too hard to come up with a use for drones before the needs drones "fit" are apparent, we might wind up missing the boat by canceling functions and jobs still relevant, even though drones can make efficiencies in the field better under reductions of operations costs and time use.

Kimberly McKenzie-Klemm's picture
Kimberly McKenzie-Klemm on Jan 11, 2023

More on what is current with drone use in the Utility sector here:

Kimberly McKenzie-Klemm's picture
Thank Kimberly for the Post!
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