Drones have gone from a futuristic idea only for the wealthy and tech-savvy, to available and accessible to all. We’ll look into how drones are transforming the telecommunications industry.
Drones are especially useful for maintenance on towers.
Technicians had to climb up dangerously high heights in the past but drones are now able to provide the same information and even provide additional information on equipment that wasn’t reachable by technicians. Using drones to capture more information on a more frequent basis allows telecom companies to build up a better base of data. Better understanding of their equipment allows for quicker updates and less expensive repairs down the road. AT&T Wireless launched a program in 2016 that uses drones to inspect cellular towers and Verizon Wireless uses drones to inspect sites after a natural disaster such as a storm or flood, to keep technicians safe. Maintenance on towers will become essential as 5G becomes more prevalent as this requires several more towers and other maintenance points. Technicians of course will still be a valuable asset but drones will offset any safety issues and require operators as well.
Another interesting use of drones in telecom is their ability to measure network performance.
This is different from maintenance because when being used to conduct maintenance and collect that information from towers, that data is used to upkeep the hardware and equipment involved. Drones can be used to measure network connectivity and coverage so providers can optimize their networks.
Advantages of using drones in the telecommunications industry:
• They offer a better visual than other inspection methods
• Towers remain on and working while inspections are conducted
• They reduce labor hours and costs
• Drones offer a safe alternative to technicians climbing up high towers
• Inspections can be done more frequently, providing a steady flow of information
• Drones are able to provide more information than a technician because they are able to reach equipment that people can’t
Drones are becoming a more popular technology for average consumers and companies alike. However, there are regulations in place that can slow down the innovation of technologies and drones are no exception. To fly a drone you must have a Remote Pilot Certificate by passing a test and be at least 16 years of age, able to understand, read, write, and speak in English, and be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a drone. Drones must also be registered. Most recently added is the requirement for Remote ID. These regulations are relatively simple and just require time investment. There are further qualifications for different uses but the above qualifications are the foundation. As of the December 2020, there are currently over 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certified remote pilots.
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