Mobile data growth continues to grow explosively. Global mobile data traffic grew 74 percent in 2015, and has grown 4,000-fold over the past 10 years. Telecommunications operators everywhere are therefore committing huge investments to reinforce their networks to carry this traffic.

The many technology possibilities include additional transceiver capacity, cell splitting, transmission network upgrades and small cell deployment, but outside of urban areas, the lynchpin of these networks is the cell-phone tower/mast. These infrastructure elements often have to carry equipment from multiple operators using multiple standards and frequencies, as well as emergency radio systems and transmission equipment.

Cell tower image

Regular inspection of these towers is therefore essential, checking that the structure is sound, equipment is secured and all safety items are operating correctly. Strat Aero's UAV solution provides comprehensive inspection of both the tower itself and attached systems. We have developed specific operating procedures and equipment that enable us to fly the inspection mission without powering down any of the equipment on the tower.

Each inspection captures a complete set of HD still images from each face of the tower. These provide a high level of detail, sufficient to check, for example, guy rope attachment points and antenna fixing bolts.

Cell tower close-up images

Our inspection process also documents other key items, including safety/warning notices, structural corrosion, paint fading and conduit attachments.

All captured data is uploaded to the Strat Aero Digital Data Manager (DDM) and synthesized into a single model. In addition to the imagery of the tower itself, we capture a 360° panorama from the top of the tower which clients can use to plan transmission connectivity (for example identifying potential line-of-sight options for point-to-point microwave links).

The Strat Aero solution enables network and tower operators to inspect their assets without putting inspection teams at risk, and to focus maintenance resources in the areas that need intervention. Using the Strat Aero DDM, they can track asset status over time. The data can be cross-checked against asset management systems to insure that inventory is fully accurate and up-to-date. And the process can be completed without needing to take revenue-generating cellular base stations off the air.