BACKGROUND

Drones have become an integral part of our lives recently on both the professional and recreational levels. Now, they are being used to inspect telecommunications towers. The telecommunications industry is benefiting from drones in an effort to cut down on one of the most dangerous jobs out there; climbing towers. Commercial drone usage has allowed the telecommunications industry to collect photos, video and other data about towers without risking injury or death. This safer method of collecting the data helps industry professional conduct an audit of the equipment and the wireless infrastructure with ease.

Challenge


This is a case study carried out for one of our clients in Malaysia.

As always, the Research & Development team (R&D) from MMC. MMC when presented with a project, will always inquire from the clients the problems or challenges being faced. We were presented with this challenges from the client:

High risk of tower climbers
High cost of mast inspection
Ecological Impact etc.

Solution


After the MMC TEAM reviewed the above challenges, the TEAM after several observations came up with a custom-made solution to solve the said challenges.

With the deployment of the said solution, the MMC TEAM achieved the following results:

Eliminate the risk of tower climbers performing audits and inspections;
Promote and ensure the safety of workers;
Track equipment specifications associated with the tower;
Inspect the tower equipment for any damage to reduce downtime;
Review the site for any encroachments by vegetation and bed nest;
Save cost for carrying any such exercise.

Inspection Process



Communication towers (mast) for radio and mobile signals are by their very nature very tall structures. They can range from 40 feet right up to 2,000 feet – that’s a long way to climb.

In order to closely map this unclimbable tower, a professional MMC L4 quadcopter drone was used with the 40 X zoom camera of 8.59MP.

The team manually flew the quadcopter around the tower, with a flight plan consisting of several vertical columns approximately 13 meters away from the tower. MMC L4 quadcopter drone is built to withstand electromagnetic wave interference during operating

1. Line of sight LOS flight



Panoramic pictreu of the tower with 30% overlap with other pictures they want both stitched picture and separate unstitched picture. The drone should hover at the top of the tower and should take 360-degree pictures with 30% overlap

2. Circular mission with POI



Considering the tower as the center and with the radius of 15m, a circular mission around the tower has to be done with the point of interest (tower) for the camera and also maintaining the 30% side overlap for the pictures taken. The same has to be repeated for the 30m radius. Also, it has to be repeated for the different altitudes of the tower based on the 30% overlap

3. 2D mapping



With the oblique camera angle, area around the tower is mapped. So we use normal to-and-fro flight path to cover the entire area

4. Entire tower



Send the drone away from the tower so that tcamera can cover the entire tower in the singDuring this flight, it takes at least 4 pictures.

5. Sector antennae pictures



For measuring the angle between the pole and sector antennae, it takes 3 pictures in front of the antennae and another 3 pictures at the side of the sector antennae.

Positive Feedback



The MMC TEAM only needed a half day’s inspection service to complete a 145 meters of height tower.

The local inspection team from the telecom tower company informed us it had saved nearly two days’ work if they had taken the same operation manually. This however made the once upon a time “the life-threatening inspection job” more enjoyable as members of the communication company where taken through some drone flying lessons.

After all said and done, the inspection report was presented to the communication tower company.
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