Xcel Energy announced Wednesday that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved its request to operate small unmanned aircraft systems or drones commercially. Xcel Energy said they sought the approval so they could use drones to inspect critical infrastructure.

Xcel Energy said they will use drones to visually inspect electricity transmission and distribution lines, power plants, renewable energy facilities, substations and natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. The use of small unmanned aircraft systems will allow Xcel Energy employees to safely inspect hard to reach areas and keep the workers out of potential harm’s way.

“We are pleased with the FAA decision as we study how this new technology can best be used to enhance employee and public safety at our operations,” said Kent Larson, Xcel Energy’s executive vice president and group president of operations.

Xcel Energy inspects more than 320,000 miles of electricity and natural gas infrastructure to ensure the safety and reliability of its energy system. The approval granted to Xcel Energy will allow them to monitor systems using drone technology in the most efficient and safest ways possible.

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