July 16, 2015 — Another day, another drone application. In this one, Nokia Networks has employed drones carrying smartphones to analyze the wireless network at Dubai International Stadium. The drones gathered network data and provided key performance indicators at the stadium, which seats 25,000, and were also used for tower inspections, radio planning and line-of-sight testing between radio towers.
With automated testing, drones can cover the desired area more quickly than a manual test. Additionally, the test data is sent to a server at Nokia Networks’ Global Delivery Center so that it can be processed and reported to the engineers in the field, who then improve network performance in a timely fashion.
Drones can be used for tower inspections to reduce the number of times technicians need to climb a tower, which increases safety, but sky-high expectations of drones should be tempered a bit, according to Todd Schlekeway, executive director, National Association of Tower Erectors.
“Drones are never going to have the skillset to perform the sophisticated, demanding work done by tower climbers,” Schlekeway told AGL Link. “Installing remote radio heads needed for 4G is really sophisticated work, and we don’t even know what 5G looks like yet.”
Nevertheless, in short order, the role of drones has expanded. They were also used for radio planning and line of-sight testing in Dubai. The INSPIRE1 drone was used for network optimization at the stadium, and Microdrones md4-1000 was used for tower inspection, LoS and radio site planning.
“The engineers knew if a frequency used was impacted by trees, if there was sufficient power to cover the distance, what the simulated latency would look like and what performance over such a connection could be expected. This helped achieve optimal site design, establish a clear LoS, as well as suitable antenna height and site location,” said Marwan BinShakar, vice president, Mobile Access Network & Operations at du, in a press release.
One sign that drones are here to stay in the tower industry is that several companies in the drone space have become members of NATE.
U.S. Convenes Meetings to Discuss Drones
Meanwhile, the United States must establish new regulations for drone use. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is holding several meetings to discuss privacy, transparency and accountability issues regarding commercial and private use of unmanned aircraft systems. The meetings will be held on Aug. 3, Sept. 24, Oct. 21 and Nov. 20 in the boardroom at the American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006.