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(4) Xcel Energy and BVLOS Operations: Mark Nisbet (Xcel Energy), Nick Flom (Northern Plains UAS Test Site) & Wes Shover (Grand Forks Region Econ. Dev)

How close are we to routine beyond visual line of sight flights?

For one company, it begins this year. Mark Nisbet is the North Dakota Principal Manager for Xcel Energy, a utility power company based in Minneapolis. The company provides power to millions of homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states. In April of 2018, Xcel Energy was granted authorization to fly drones beyond visual line of sight.  It will be the first utility in the nation to routinely fly beyond the operator’s line of sight when it begins surveying transmission lines near Denver this year.

In this edition of the Drone Radio Show, Mark talks about Xcel, its history of using drones and the plans for flying beyond visual line of sight. Joining Mark is Nick Flom, the Executive Director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and Wes Shover, UAS Sector Development Manager for the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation. Together, they talk about the partnerships in North Dakota that have made this possible and how it serves as a benchmark for the Industry moving forward.

In This Episode

  • Mark Nisbet (Xcel Energy) kicks off the interview by providing background on Xcel Energy, its scope of operations and its four year history of using drones. He then focuses on the FAA authorization that gave Xcel Energy permission to fly drones beyond visual line of sight.
  • Nick Flom (Northern Plains UAS Test Site) talks about how the UAS Test Site worked with the FAA and Xcel Energy, as well as other partners in supporting the authorization. He also shares how this authorization is a positive win for the rest of the industry.
  • Wes Shover (Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation) shares how the various entities in North Dakota came together to support this project and what it means to North Dakota.


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