Mobile GIS Takes Flight with Owen Electric Asset Inspections

By Sarah Alban, Esri

“Finally we have a tool that incorporates GPS tracking, our own system maps, and the inspection software my people need to get the job done. This was the winning combination we were looking for.” — Rusty Williams, Senior V.P. of Operations & Technology, Owen Electric Cooperative

Owen Electric Cooperative serves 58,000 meters and nearly 5,000 miles of power line north of Louisville, Kentucky. Every year in preparation for tourist-drawing NASCAR events, Owen flies the part of its distribution network serving the Kentucky Speedway. Successful surveys have required hand-delivered paper maps and at least a week’s worth of manual entry.

What did they do?

Owen implemented a product suite — called geoOrganizer — made by Tennessee-based Esri partner GISbiz. iPads loaded with the product suite’s field inspection tool, geoFIT, went up in the chopper. Within three hours, the crew surveyed three full circuits, identifying repair and vegetation-management needs. Data collection synced to headquarters via the cloud, so maintenance crews could tackle service orders right away. The GPS-enabled product suite meant any field technicians — familiar or not with the area — could locate and service the job. Aerial inspection offered better vantage of transformer tops and other elevated assets, too, whereas terrestrial surveys had required line shutdowns for similar data quality.

Do I need this?

The GISbiz product suite appealed to Owen because it fully integrated with the Esri platform. Out-of-the-box, geoOrganizer required no IT resources and minimal training. Additional tools include a user-friendly geoDASH for decision makers directing workflows from headquarters. There is also report generation for agencies such as FEMA and RUS. Time and geo stamping prove technicians were onsite during inspections, shielding the utility from compliance inquiries. Owen will expand this tool for storm-damage assessment. It estimates savings in time spent getting lights back on and gains in customer satisfaction.

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