Community Electric lineman places third in regional drone operator competition

Published 1:00 pm Monday, June 3, 2024

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Windsor-based Community Electric Cooperative’s Evan Wagensomer took home a third-place trophy in the first Drone Operator Competition ever held at the annual Gaff-n-Go Rodeo for the mid-Atlantic region’s electrical lineworkers.

Wagensomer and CEC colleague Flynn Gladden competed in the drone operator contest held May 17 during the two-day rodeo in Doswell. The Gaff-n-Go Rodeo is hosted by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives to showcase the skills of utility lineworkers. More than 300 linemen from 11 states competed in the rodeo, which celebrated its 20th anniversary.

The drone competition was added due to the expanded use of aerial inspections. Electric cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware have more than 100 licensed drone pilots on staff.

Wagensomer is a field engineer who has worked at Community Electric since 2014. As part of the competition where he earned his trophy, certified drone pilots were required to assemble, launch and successfully navigate their aerial vehicles through a course and snap quality images of logos tucked inside of three buckets affixed at angles to 40-foot-high poles. The competitors also got points for factors that included landing on a designated target.

“The drone competition was a great experience,” Wagensomer said. “This seems like an event that could gain a lot of ground, and I hope more co-ops will participate next year. CEC will take first place, I’ll tell you that.”

Community Electric President and CEO Steven A. Harmon, himself a former lineworker, said he is proud of Wagensomer and Gladden for accepting the challenge of the new drone contest and for the work they perform daily to better serve the co-op’s member-owners.

The fact that drones are at the point where they merit such an event shows how the technology is advancing, Harmon said.

“I could not have conceived of this when I was a lineman,” Harmon said. “Our team continually strives to find safe ways to monitor our lines and create efficiencies that will help us keep costs low for our members. I am delighted that Evan’s proficiency was on full display at the rodeo. I’m even more pleased that the skills that both he and Flynn have worked hard to acquire are put to use for our members’ benefit throughout the year.”