AT&T recently said in a press release that the trials of drones doing tower inspections were successful, and as a result, they are planning to use drones for operations on tower by September 2016. These drones would not be replacing climbers completely, but over time, they can lead to a more efficient use of climbers.
“Every time we use a drone it’s just one less tower climb. Every tower climb that we can save provides a safer situation, or less opportunity for potential injury,” said Art Pregler, director of national mobility systems at AT&T.
Live videos and images of the tower and trouble spots, if any, can be sent to the computers on ground by the drones. Drones can be directed by tower technicians to take more images in real time, if needed. These images would help to know about trouble aptly, and prepare for it before climbing the tower. All this increases the efficiency of tower inspection for repair or upgrade.
Pregler said, “We’re seeing very accurate results from this data. We obtain it faster and we obtain it with more accuracy than we’ve been able to do with traditional methods. … For example, instead of having to watch an entire video to understand what it is you’re looking at, we can tag all the various elements within there, so if we want to see for example … a certain antenna or a certain radio, we can click on that tag and it takes us right to that spot.”
The main use of the drones, at first, would be for bird nest evaluation and pre-installation inspections. Drones would indicate if any protected species is nesting on the tower, thus protecting the climbers from birds guarding their hatchlings or eggs. As drones do not touch tower, disturbance to the nest would be avoided.
“We’re not allowed to perform work on towers if there’s active nesting by an endangered bird, so we can fly the drone and inspect the nest without having to climb the tower, and know definitively if the bird is nesting,” Pregler said.
Post-installation inspections, disaster recovery, microwave testing, and stadium DAS drive testing, are some other important uses of the drones. For instance, if a tower comes under a natural disaster, then a drone can be sent to the site to check if it possible to access the site. In microwave testing, a drone is sent to a link location and the other end is photographed to check for any obstruction. Surely, this project is going to revolutionize the entire spectrum of TV industry.