The benefits of using drones for inspecting cell towers
Updated: Aug 23
Drones are slowly making their way into various fields and industries throughout the world, and cell tower inspections with drones is no exception. In a variety of industries, drones are being used to mitigate risk and improve efficiency by improving safety and automating processes.
The number of cell towers is steadily increasing. In today's world, between 4 to 5 million towers are active. This number will only increase as 5G is implemented across the globe. It's not surprising that drones in the telecom industry have reached a market value of $6.3 billion. As a result, asset holders are recognising the benefits of using UAVs to handle the increased workload.
Today, we’ll be exploring the cell tower inspections vertical, and looking at the benefits of Drone Inspections over traditional methods.
Inspections of cell towers using traditional methods
Let's begin by looking at traditional methods of Cell Tower Inspections.
An on-site team of technical engineers has traditionally carried out cell tower inspections. To conduct a visual inspection of components and/or take images for later analysis, engineers may also need to be highly skilled and trained climbers (as well as EMTs) ascending a tower and photographing various components, such as cables, arrays, modules, nuts & bolts, and lower compound meters, gate plaques, and fibre optic covers on the ground. A photographer and zoom lenses could also capture components from the ground.
Depending on the type of imagery needed, this method can be more complicated. Analyzing the condition of equipment requires visual imagery. KML images are ideal for identifying problems such as rust, corrosion, or wear and tear on mounting hardware.
Cell tower inspections are a highly dangerous job. On average, towers are 100 to 300 feet (30 to 90 m) tall, and some even reach 1000 feet (300 m). Climbing these towers involves considerable safety risks.
Moreover, Cell tower equipment emits radio-frequency (RF) radiation, which is dangerous. Falling is most often fatal. Between 2003 and 2011, 50 climbers died working on cell sites in the United States. That's 10 times as many deaths as construction workers.
Drone Inspections of Cell Towers
Drones come into play. Compared to traditional inspections, drone cell tower inspections offer a number of benefits. Let’s explore them in more detail:
Improved safety in cell tower inspections with drones
Drones are capable of saving lives. Using the air and different angles, they can easily determine the condition of every component of a cell tower. In cell tower inspections, drones eliminate the need to put people in dangerous situations. Modern commercial drones are equipped with hardware and software packages that allow them to navigate easily to any part of the cell tower that needs to be examined.
Drone Operators can now plan the cell tower inspection using software like Hammer Missions, which calculates a flight path around the tower based on the altitudes and distances provided as input by the operator. This is done by keeping the correct picture overlap into account so that the resulting photos can be used for inspection and/or a 3D model. If you want to learn more about How to inspect a tower using drones click here.
By avoiding collisions, geofencing, and using real-time kinematics (RTK) positioning, the drone itself is protected against damage. As a result, switching to drone cell tower inspections asset owners minimize the risk of costly damage to the tower and expensive equipment.
Drones enable inspections to be perfectly programmed to collect consistent data, every time. Drone flights are planned to operate autonomously, with precise intervals between image captures.
In addition to drones, drones can also be equipped with different types of payloads to provide valuable inspection data:
Thermal sensors that produce radiometric data to determine exact temperatures and heat maps to locate hotspots
Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) lasers enable the generation of highly accurate and precise topographic maps based on geospatial data
4K RGB cameras with high-resolution images and streaming capabilities
With these cameras and sensors integrated, a lot of actionable information can be gathered. When drones capture enough overlapping footage from multiple angles, software like Hammer Missions can use photogrammetry to create valuable 3D analysis from the data. To learn more about Hammer Mission 3D analysis, click here
Faster Inspection Times
Manually inspecting one cell tower can take more than six hours. The reason for this is that each inspection involves multiple safety checks, the use of heavy equipment on-site, and the careful ascent of tall towers.
Automating workflows with drones can reduce inspection times significantly. To streamline the inspection process, data capture, 3D modelling, analytics, and reports can all be automated.
We hope this post has provided you with an insight into some of the advantages of conducting a cell tower inspection using drones. Every tower inspection is slightly different, so don't be afraid to add your own creativity to the data capture process!
If you're interested to learn more about our enterprise solutions, including mission collaboration, flight analytics and more please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing from you.
- The Hammer Team