Drones Improve Efficiency & Safety at Tower Site
Whether you work for a wireless communications carrier or a tower owner and choose to operate drones or to contract with others to operate drones for you, understanding the basics will help you start to make use of drone technology. In the June issue of AGL magazine, Talon Aerolytic’s Tim Dunnigan discusses how drones are improving efficiency and safety at tower sites. A UAS is good at gathering current information about site conditions on the ground and upon the tower that would otherwise require a trained crew to climb the tower. Using a tower-climbing crew would involve more time and money. Talon Aerolytics, based in West Point, Georgia, and one of the leading UAS operators in the country, is really a data capture company, according to Tim Dunnigan, company co-founder, and chief strategy officer. “We provide our customers expertise in collecti>ng and maintaining a dataset of tower and equipment conditions through photogrammetry, pictures, real-time communications and sensor data,” Dunnigan said. By some estimates, the damage to property and infrastructure caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria exceeded $200 billion, making 2017 the most expensive U.S. hurricane season. Their height and openness to the surrounding environment make cell towers especially vulnerable to hurricane forces. Talon Aerolytics was one of the companies called in to help survey the damage in advance of dispatching climbing crews. Dunnigan said the company assembled a team of 120 commercial drone pilots from the Talon National Alliance partners and dispatched them to sites throughout Texas and Florida. It became a largescale, 24-hour operation. The drone pilots had to contend with blocked access roads as they were coordinating with the customers. Photos 3 and 4 provide a drone’s-eye-view of damaged RAD centers at two sites from the hundreds that were collected. Drones will play an increasingly significant role in the operations and maintenance of wireless infrastructure. In the end, drones can help carriers, tower owners, and climbers achieve their operating goals, efficiently and safely.