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JEA using drones to assess damage, restore power faster

by: Jenna Bourne, Action News Jax Updated:

For the first time, JEA has contracted with drone pilots to get a bird’s-eye view of damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

Four drone teams assessed the destruction in Jacksonville on Tuesday, in an effort to help JEA restore power more quickly.

Drone pilot Eric Goetsch drove to Jacksonville overnight.

“We actually came from Houston, Texas, assisting with Hurricane Harvey,” Goetsch said.

He said drones can fly in places, such as over a flooded street, where it may be unsafe to send a crew.

He said drones can also fly lower than helicopters, which means JEA can get a closer look at damage.

“Basically, what we’re looking for today is any downed trees on the power lines. And that’s just with our visual video camera that we have on it. And we also have a side-by-side thermal, or infrared, camera, which can basically detect the heat of a component. So let’s say, for example, if it’s being overloaded, it might give off a heat signature, which we can give to JEA,” Goetsch said.

Tuesday’s hot weather was a struggle for families without power across our area.

“It’s frustrating because it’s hot outside now. If it was cloudy and cool in the 70s, I wouldn’t be concerned,” Paul Perrotti said.

“Getting power back and getting people back to their normal lives is really important. And it’s just kind of an honor to help out with that,” Goetsch said.

Northeast Florida has several air fields and military bases where drones typically can’t fly.

Goetsch said his team has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration to get the waivers they need to fly in controlled airspace.