Stephen Cross – Using Tomorrow’s Technology Today
As a digital innovation engineer, I work with our innovation team to see how we can use emerging technology to increase service reliability for customers. We look at technology such as 3D printing, augmented reality, virtual reality, robots and drones that can help us avoid and reduce the number of outages that customers experience, and restore power faster when outages do occur. Investing in this technology helps keep reliability high and work more efficiently, which in turn helps keep bills low.
I discovered my passion for engineering at a very early age. As a kid, I would take toys apart and put them back together. When I reached high school I realized how much gratification I got from building models and creating things from scratch, which led me to the engineering field.
I joined an engineering program and robotics team sponsored by FPL while in high school. It gave me the opportunity to learn about the different areas of engineering, like computer, electrical, environmental, agricultural and mechanical engineering. I ended up choosing mechanical engineering because movement and dynamics appeal to me.
When I first arrived at FPL, I was blown away by the company’s innovativeness. We’re not just an energy company – we’re a technology company. A recent innovation of ours is the substation robot. It’s not a robot like R2D2; this robot is a small self-driving vehicle that moves around and inspects a substation all on its own. With its built-in cameras and sensors, it checks for abnormalities and potential issues, such as an animal building a nest or equipment that is overheating. Basically, it catches small issues so we can proactively fix them before they become big ones.
During Hurricane Irma, I managed our drone fleet. We used drones for inspections and damage assessments, which is invaluable after a storm. Drones are perfect because they are able to send us real-time information from places we otherwise couldn’t get employees or equipment into to inspect. This helps us be better prepared and in turn get life back to normal sooner for our customers.
I get really motivated by the problem-solving experience. At work, I collaborate with my teammates to brainstorm ideas – solving problems is what we do. We’re innovators. We work together as a team to match problems with innovative technological solutions. Our investments in advanced technology, coupled with hardworking employees, allow us to work on solutions that help us keep bills low and reliability high.