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Drone at work: Utility using machines to build power lines

FARGO, N.D. — A Minnesota utility that serves customers in eight states is using drones for the first time to help build a transmission line.

A machine owned and operated by North Dakota-based SkySkopes is stringing lines on a 5-mile Xcel Energy line meant to improve reliability in the Fargo area. The drone installs the lines by pulling a specialized rope through pulleys that is then attached to wires that will transmit electricity.

Xcel officials say drones will save time and money while increasing safety and reducing the environmental impact from heavy equipment.

The drone installed lines on six towers Wednesday, a process that took less than half an hour despite windy conditions.

Xcel provides energy to customers in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.