Photo: Leah Voss / USA TODAY NETWORK
Senior drone pilot Michael Dorr inspects a "drone in a box" that FPL deploys to monitor infrastructure.
Economic Backbone: Global Florida
FPL's deal with an Israeli drone company leads to a 100-employee base in Riviera Beach.
Looking for a way to enhance reliability, both during regular operations to keep small problems from becoming big ones and also during emergencies when quickly finding sources of outages is important, FPL began working with Israeli company Percepto in 2018 on using drones to monitor infrastructure and on a nationwide FAA waiver to allow the utility to fly Percepto drones for surveillance and inspection at FPL sites.
According to a Percepto case study, Percepto boosted inspections from yearly to weekly using autonomous drones. Last year, the companies announced a deal that made FPL the first electric utility to deploy “drone-in-a-box” tech statewide and made the project the “largest commercial autonomous drone project in the world” and the first to use autonomous drones in an urban setting for infrastructure inspection.
Over the first year, 13 drones-in-a-box were deployed around West Palm Beach with FPL planning to introduce hundreds more to monitor substations in the next five years. The drones are coordinated by a single platform that Percepto calls its Autonomous Inspection and Monitoring solution. AIM made Time’s 100 Best Inventions of 2021.
“With Percepto, we’re able to quickly deploy … instead of charging batteries, getting all our gear and traveling to the site,” FPL senior drone pilot Michael Dorr is quoted in the case study. “For a utility to be able to see our infrastructure in areas where we can’t get to safely — to quickly fly over it and understand what our conditions are — is invaluable.”
FPL took Percepto to the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, resulting in Percepto opening an 11,000-sq.-ft. plant in Riviera Beach employing 100 and investing “several million” dollars, the economic development group says. “Given our work with FPL and our drone-in-a-box systems that can withstand Category 5 hurricane conditions, it was ideal to open a Florida office to best serve customers,” says Yorai Shmueli, Percepto vice president of operations.