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Grand Forks company among first to fly drones at night

Updated: Dec 10, 2017

By Valley News | Nov 16, 2016


GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) A Grand Forks based company is among the first in the nation to get permission to fly drones at night.

SkySkopes got the ok earlier this month under the Federal Aviation Administration's recently implemented UAS rules.

SkySkopes completed its first set of nighttime flights November 10 in cooperation with Xcel Energy. They were part of a research project exploring the use of drones to assess storm damage.

The goal is to see whether thermal cameras can detect problems such as severed power lines and downed utility poles.

“Developing this technology allows us to explore ways we can improve reliability and safety to better serve our customers,” said Michael Lamb, Xcel Energy Vice President operating services and enterprise transformation office.

Under current federal law, operating drones is only allowed during the day, but commercial users can apply for waivers to conduct night operations.

“These permissions are a game-changer for the North Dakotan UAS ecosystem,” SkySkopes President and CEO Matt Dunlevy said.

Because of the cooler and more consistent temperatures at night, thermal imagery is more effective thanks to increased temperature contrast between people or objects and the surrounding environment.

SkySkopes says it has an extensive safety plan in place for night operations including anti-collision strobe lights and a rigorous pilot training program.

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