3 Reasons You Should Use Drones for Cell Tower Inspections

Are you reading this on your cell phone?

There’s a good chance you are. And if not, it’s probably in your pocket, your purse, or lying next to you.

But when was the last time you thought about the infrastructure that makes them work?

Cell phones are so ingrained in our lives that we take them for granted, never considering what it takes to send that business email or funny picture.

No matter what you depend on your cell phone for, the telecommunications network is a critical part of the world we live in. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an aspect of society doesn’t depend on them

But there’s more to good cell service than simply putting up another tower and moving on. They need constant maintenance, inspections, and repairs.

And with a growing demand for more and more data, it’s time for you to look for a better solution.

Drone-based cell tower inspections offer the best alternative for the task. Adopting drones for your tower inspection operations produces three primary benefits: lower cost, increased safety, and greater efficiency.

Let’s take a look at how they do it.

What Do Cell Tower Inspections Require?

Cellular towers are everywhere, with over 400,000 cell tower sites across Europe, and over 390,000 in the U.S. alone. To ensure these towers are working correctly, they must be inspected for mechanical, electronic, and structural defects.

Initially, these are inspected every three to five years. However, as they begin to age, inspections are required more frequently.

Until recently, workers physically climbed these towers – usually at dangerous heights. Upon climbing, a wide variety of tests are performed, including visual inspections, thermal imaging, and even ultrasound.

It‘s a challenging process to say the least, taking hours or even days, depending on the level of assessment needed.

Here’s where drones come into play.

Drones Reduce Inspection Costs

Human labor is expensive, and skilled labor is even more expensive.

On average, manual inspection teams are paid $65 to $85 an hour plus travel and expenses. Teams usually operate with at least two people and take over 6 hours to complete their assessment.

Because of this, inspections usually cost over $900 or more, once travel is included.

However, using a drone can lower the cost of an inspection by as much as 50%. But the savings don’t end at wages.

Beyond a lower hourly cost, drones help you obtain lower insurance rates and, thanks to increased data collections, identify issues earlier than people can.

More timely repairs and preventative maintenance decreases downtime and makes repairs less expensive.

This all translates into huge cost savings for your tower inspections.

Drones Improve Cell Tower Inspection Safety

For a detailed survey of a tower’s integrity, inspection teams place themselves at dangerous heights, sometimes hundreds of feet in the air.

Is it a big deal? You bet it is.

In fact, falls are the number one cause of workplace fatalities, and the second leading cause of non-fatal injuries. Additionally, fall protection violations remain the most common OSHA citation.

However, drones eliminate the need to place people in dangerous situations during cell tower inspections. The hardware and software packages in modern commercial drones easily navigate to any section of the tower that needs to be examined.

Crews can look at the feed over a pilot’s shoulder or even remotely without ever touching the tower. Thanks to recent advancements in UAV technology, inspectors can completely avoid life-threatening situations

Drone cell tower inspections - Consortiq

More Efficient Inspections

But it’s not just safety and financial concerns driving the use of drones for cell tower inspections.

With increased speed, better data collection, and numerous payload configurations, drones are simply more efficient.

Drones often complete the project in less than half the time it takes trained inspectors. Unlike people, drones do not need to climb up and down a tower.

If you’ve ever used a ladder to hang Christmas lights, clean your gutters, or paint a building, you know how tedious and exhausting it is.

But drones quickly move to any height of the tower within seconds. Additionally, they can circle a structure and view all sides much faster than any person can – all without the risk of a serious fall.

And when compared to drones, human inspectors capture limited amounts of data.

UAV technology allows for a drone’s camera to capture photos and videos continuously. The resolution of many drone-based cameras is precise enough to capture detailed 3D models of towers. Realistically, its far more information than inspection teams could ever replicate economically.

Payloads as varied as RGB cameras, thermal optics, Lidar, ultrasound, and multispectral units, analyze the integrity of the cell tower with ease.

While an inspection crews take measurements at specific points of the structure, drones can survey every inch thanks. The combination of speed, data collection, and payload options give drones a significant advantage over people.

Todd Schlekeway talks 5G towers and implementation on this episode of Unmanned Uncovered – Listen Now!

The Takeaways

Cell phones are big business, and they’re not going away anytime soon. As such, the number of towers and similar structures continues to grow each year.

And along with this growing infrastructure comes a growing need for inspection and maintenance.

The bottom line is that UAV technology makes using drones for tower inspections an easy sell.

Just because traditional methods worked in the past doesn’t mean they’re the methods of the future. Manual inspection crews simply cannot match the cost, speed, data collection capabilities, and efficiency of drones.

Isn’t it time you tried a better way?

So, which drone is right for you? And, how do you get started? Do you hire out or bring your drone program in-house?

At Consortiq, we help you find a better way with drones, from consultation and program implementation to actually doing the work for you.

Ready to learn more? Just complete the form below to schedule a risk-free consultation!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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