Dominion Energy (NYSE: D) and Skydio, the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight, today announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted Dominion Energy a pivotal approval to fly Skydio drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to inspect power generation facilities in seven states. Dominion obtained the waiver in partnership with Skydio’s regulatory team under the FAA BEYOND program, as part of the Virginia team led by the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) along with the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation.
Representing the democratization of advanced drone operations, the waiver allows individual operators — like plant engineers — to fly drones beyond their line of sight with unprecedented efficiency. There is no requirement to use an additional crew member or technology to detect crewed aircraft. Skydio’s AI technology allows the pilot to safely fly their missions in close proximity to structures in a way that would be difficult or impossible with a drone that uses less sophisticated technology. As a result of this waiver, Dominion Energy — one of the nation’s largest energy companies — may conduct scaled BVLOS operations to inspect more than 40 power facilities in Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
Dominion Energy first deployed drones in 2014, focusing primarily on identifying electrical transmission line defects. Since then, Dominion has expanded its drone program to include approximately 50 drones and drone pilots serving multiple operational business segments. At power generation facilities, Dominion Energy drones take volumetric measurements and assess construction progress, provide surveying and mapping services, and inspect infrastructure.
“A 20-minute inspection by a battery-powered drone will increase safety for our colleagues, who will no longer need to rappel down the side of a structure, as well as save time during inspection-related preparations,” said Nate Robie, Dominion Energy’s manager of unmanned systems program. “As a pioneer in beyond visual line of sight drone use, Dominion Energy contributes to a safer, greener future, as well as potentially lowering operations and maintenance costs, which ultimately benefits our customers.”
Dominion Energy will conduct these operations using Skydio X2, the ultimate intelligent aerial tool for enterprise applications. Skydio X2 pairs a rugged, foldable airframe with Skydio Autonomy, the world’s most advanced AI-based autonomous flight engine, which enables Skydio drones to safely navigate any environment, including areas without GPS, with 360° obstacle avoidance. Designed, assembled, and supported in the USA, the Skydio X2 also meets the demanding supply chain and cyber security requirements necessary for inspecting critical infrastructure.
“This pivotal approval brings Dominion Energy, Skydio and the entire drone industry one step closer to advanced drone operations at scale,” said Jenn Player, Skydio’s Director of Regulatory Affairs. “When it comes to scaling beyond visual line of sight operations, having an intelligent drone makes all the difference and Skydio was proud to support Dominion Energy in obtaining this waiver that enables them to inspect critically important facilities.”
MAAP leads Virginia’s BEYOND team and other major federal UAS-integration efforts, and their work has consistently led to landmark authorizations and operations that have advanced the industry. They work with the FAA, other federal agencies, and leading companies on fundamental research and advanced testing, bridging industry goals and regulatory priorities to develop practical, powerful, evidence-based solutions that set new precedents and lay the groundwork for expanded operations.
“Two major goals of the research we conduct as an FAA-designated test site are helping companies like Dominion develop practical ways to use drones to make their operations safer and more efficient, and working with drone companies like Skydio to find opportunities to leverage the real power of their technology to make new kinds of operations possible,” said Tombo Jones, MAAP’s director. “This waiver achieves both of those things and is a real win for us in our efforts in the BEYOND program. We’re excited to see the difference it will make for Dominion and Skydio now, and what it lays the groundwork for in the future.”
About Dominion Energy
About 7 million customers in 13 states energize their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy (NYSE: D), headquartered in Richmond, Va. The company is committed to sustainable, reliable, affordable and safe energy and to achieving net zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions from its power generation and gas infrastructure operations by 2050. Please visit DominionEnergy.com to learn more.
Skydio is the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight. Skydio leverages breakthrough AI to create the world’s most intelligent flying machines for use by consumer, enterprise, and government customers. Founded in 2014, Skydio is made up of leading experts in AI, robotics, cameras, and electric vehicles from top companies, research labs, and universities from around the world. Skydio designs, assembles, and supports its products in the U.S. from its headquarters in Redwood City, CA, to offer the highest standards of supply chain and manufacturing security. Skydio is trusted by leading enterprises across a wide range of industry sectors and is backed by top investors and strategic partners including Andreesen Horowitz, Levitate Capital, Next47, IVP, Playground, and NVIDIA.