AT&T Makes Cell Tower Inspections Safer and More Efficient With Drones

ICT Monitor Worldwide

July 3, 2017

Drones are some of the newest technology people can use to capture pictures and videos from angles or heights otherwise not accessible.

AT&T is taking drones to new heights to perform automated cell tower inspections with machine-learning software.

“A lot of companies are using drones in many ways to get pictures from above ground,” said Leland Kim, director at AT&T. “This case is a little different in the sense that we’re not only looking at cell towers but we’re using software to capture images, correctly identify and categorize the different parts of a cell tower.”

A Federal Aviation Administration-certified drone operator will control a drone up and above cell towers. The drone will then capture images of the towers. Artificial intelligence software will memorize the images of a proper tower and will alert engineers when something seems out of place.

AT&T has issued more than 130 patents and used the innovations and prototypes from the past 20 years to create the video technology. The drones will allow continuous research and data collecting for more efficient results.

“When we have a network the size of ours with 65,000 cell sites, and 100,000 projects, the efficiency gains are tremendous,” said Art Pregler, Director of AT&T’s Drone Program. “You have software able to look for anomalies and identify defects rather than AT&T employees having to go through that many project videos.”

It will also be safer for the employees climbing the 300-foot towers.

“We can eliminate up to 30% of our climbs by having drones,” Pregler said. “That allows the target technicians to concentrate more on the core competency.”

“The combination of the drones supporting the target technician allows our network to be optimized,” he added.

Use of drones

  • Infrastructure inspections with live video feed.
  • Add electronics on drones to measure performance, troubleshoot or look for signal strength.
  • Use up to four LTE radios on drones as a cell tower in the sky.
  • Artificial intelligence to allow drones to think for itself and identify tower defects.

“We can fly the drone up to 400 feet, which is significantly higher than a cell on wheels,” Pregler said. “In this case, we have a cell on wings and can service first responders, network customer, and can quickly deploy it and redeploy it.”

While this is still in the experimental phase, the AT&T drone project team plan to share the technique once perfected.

“It’s pretty advanced technology and to my knowledge, we’re the only ones doing this,” said Kim of the Fresno-based project. “This is something we hope to implement widely throughout the Central Valley, California, and the country.”

Copyright 2017 Global Data Point. Provided by Syndigate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info). All Rights Reserved.

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