Cooperative Drone Program

Part of Cloverland’s mission statement is to “deliver exceptional services through the generation and safe delivery of reliable and affordable energy solutions.” This commitment drives the cooperative to adapt to new technologies to deliver on its promise.

Matt Birk, Cloverland’s Vegetation Manager, tests out the new co-op drone.
Matt Birk, Cloverland’s Vegetation Manager, tests out the new co-op drone.

Unmanned Arial Systems (UAS) are a newer technology to the utility sector that significantly help to deliver on the promise to members.

UAS, or “drones,” have been advancing in technology for the past decade. Originally designed for military use, drones are now available to the average consumer for as little as $50. Equipped with high-tech cameras, flight sensors and the ability to carry small “payloads,” drones can be used for as many applications as you can dream. Thorough research from Cloverland’s business development and engineering departments revealed many applications for a cooperative drone program, which include equipment inspections, line inspection, storm damage assessment and vegetation management evaluation. After consulting with other cooperatives to fully understand the benefits, Cloverland purchased two drones.

Once the drones arrived, the real work began. Nearly one dozen Cloverland employees attended a full day training session to learn everything from flight dynamics, sensors, flight plans and camera operation. The next step is for the cooperative’s engineering and operations staff to train on the rules and regulations of the air with plans to become Part 107 certified through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A drone research and advisory committee has been established to ensure full potential of the drone program can be reached and all safety protocols are maintained.

Cloverland’s commitment to safe and reliable electricity does not stop at delivering electricity. The cooperative strives to adapt new technologies that can make delivery even more reliable and ensure restoration efforts are as safe and efficient as possible. Drones further this commitment to co-op members while providing safer operations for the workforce. The next time you see something flying over a power line, it might not be a bird or a plane, but rather a vital tool used by the co-op to ensure your lights stay on.

Privacy: With its new drone program, Cloverland is committed to following all FAA regulations as well as protecting the privacy of its members. Due to regulations and safety, Cloverland will not fly drones over any member’s property without advance notification. Additionally, the co-op’s drone cameras are focused on vital electric infrastructure and rights of way, with no video captured or transmitted from member property without advance notification.


By: Jake Brown