By J. Sharpe Smith —
A number of applications for drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the wireless industry came to light this year — everything from asset auditing, RF planning and line-of-sight testing between radio towers. And companies were formed to use them.
It all began in April when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began granting exceptions to its rules to allow the use of commercial drones.
One of the first companies to get an exception was Solusia Air, which wanted to use UAS to perform asset audits and safety inspections for wireless and utility infrastructure firms.
Solusia Air attaches video, still and infrared cameras and other instruments on Leica Geosystems’ Aibot X6 multi-copters, which it then flies around the cell tower. The multi-copter has six rotors encased in a carbon fiber frame and a maximum payload of 4.4 pounds. The inspections produces high-definition photo and video inspection, asset audits, RF microwave path validation, intermodulation/interference identification and safety assessments.
In July, Nokia Networks 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.
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. 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.
In October, Sentera, a UAS designer and manufacturer, brought its knowledge in acquisition and management of image-based data to the wireless industry.
Sentera, which initially worked with military systems, launched a mobile app and desktop client that provide the ability to analyze image data and a record of the location, date, time, and asset type. Photos are then presented in a searchable map view. Sentera began developing the product after it was approached by a tower company that had an abundance of images of its towers but no way to organize them and fully utilize them.
In September 32 Advisors spun off a drone-as-a-service company, Measure, and then in December it hired Chris Moccia, former CEO for Solusia Air, to serve as vice president of infrastructure.
“Measure’s Drone as a Service model allows cellular tower owners and operators to use drones for inspections without making a heavy capital investment,” said Measure CEO Brandon Torres Declet. “Chris’s skill set combines his experience as a businessman and industry expert with a keen ability to navigate emerging technology markets. With his leadership, Measure will help companies with vertical infrastructure realize the benefit of incorporating drones into their operations.”
Government regulators and industry associations engaged with the drone industry. The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) established a UAS committee, which will monitor the trends and regulatory environment associated with UAS technologies. Additionally, it will make recommendations to NATE members on best practices concerning UAS integration. NATE has also participate in the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) meetings on Unmanned Aerial Systems that have been held in Washington, D.C.
(Watertown, SD) – The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) today released the official results of the 2016 Board of Directors election. The Association announces that candidates John Paul Jones, President of Tower & Turbine Technologies LLC in Cedar Park, Texas; Bryan Lee, President of Lee Antenna & Line Service, Inc. in Springtown, Pennsylvania; Jimmy Miller, President of MillerCo, Inc. in Gulfport, Mississippi and Don Train, President of Train’s Towers, Inc. in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, were re-elected and will retain their seats on the NATE Board of Directors.
Candidate Kevin Dougherty, President of MILLENIA CONTRACTING, Inc. in New Castle, Delaware, also assumed a seat and will be serving as a new member of the Board of Directors.
The five candidates who were elected by their industry peers will officially begin their two-year terms on February 21, 2015 at the NATE UNITE 2016 Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“On behalf of the Association’s 715 member companies, I would like to congratulate the successful candidates in the recently concluded Board of Directors election,” said Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. “It is an exciting time in the Association’s history to serve on NATE’s Board of Directors and we look forward to collaborating with the elected members in order to continue to lead the organization to new heights,” added Schlekeway.
The 2016 election featured a slate of seven accomplished candidates from eligible voting member companies vying for five open seats on the NATE Board of Directors. “I would like to personally thank all of the candidates who placed their hat in the ring during this election. NATE is stronger due to the ideas and commitment displayed by these leaders,” Schlekeway stated.
October 29, 2015 — The tower industry was in shock this week as news spread of the passing of Ernie Jones, a tower specialist with Consolidated Engineering, who died in an elevator accident while inspecting a tower in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Jones had a productive career where he designed and oversaw the construction of 3,000 towers, including monopoles, self-supporting lattice towers and guyed towers — from 240 feet to 2,000 feet in height. He also developed software that is used for the structural design of telecom towers. But he is known primarily for his work in the area of climber safety.
To David Davies, engineering consultant at Consolidated Engineering, Jones was like a brother. They met at the age of 14 and their lives have been intertwined the 52 years since.
“The tower industry is tenfold safer today because of the life of Ernie Jones,” Davies said. “He was a wonderful guy. He was a quiet, soft-spoken gentleman. His only flaw was not being able to say no when people asked for help.”
Jones was an active member of the National Association of Tower Erectors, where wrote safety resources for tower climbers.
“He was an accomplished individual, universally respected in the wireless and the broadcast industry. People of his expertise in our industry are few and far between,” Todd Schlekeway, NATE executive director said. “Ernie was one of the most prominent structural engineers in the United States and his contributions to NATE and the entire industry made an indelible impact on safety.”
Tragedy on Top of the Tower
Ironically, the tragedy that took Jones’ life occurred as he was working on a tower. The incident came at the end of the day after the crew had been released. Jones decided to go back up to the top of the tower to retrieve some missing information for a structural analysis, where he tied off with his back lanyard. Jones remained attached to the tower after he got back in the elevator and when it began descending, he was pressed to the ceiling of the elevator and asphyxiated.
A Passion for Safety
Jones’ passion for worker safety led him to developed best practices of gin pole use and rigging safety through use of engineering data. He served on the TR14.7 Committee of the Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronics Industry Association for nearly 30 years.
“He was a driving force in the development of the TIA‐1019 Gin Pole Standard leading the research and technical developments it represented. He continued this work broadening the 1019 Standard to create TIA‐1019-A, which included safety, standardized construction nomenclature, established standard rigging plans and so much more,” wrote John Erichsen, TR14 chairman.
Jones worked tirelessly with multiple organizations within the tower industry to create standards that would improve safety. Along with FDH/Velocitel’s Don Doty and Pat Moore, and Gordon Lyman of Safety LMS, Jones was involved in forming a gin pole summit with NATE members in 2012, which would be used to develop the training parameters in the A10.48 standard. He worked with NATE representatives and the TIA TR14 committee to improve 1019 to create ASSE 10.48 and the soon to be published TIA 322, which will eventually replace TIA‐1019‐A, according to Erichsen.
His contributions to the TR14 committee research incorporated strength theory into the American National Standard for Steel Antenna Towers and Antenna Supporting Structures (ANSI/TIA/EIA-222). “It is quite a useful resource for workers. So much so that several large companies require their installers use that standard,” Davies said. “They developed a rigging plan concept that is revolutionary in the tower installation business.”
Together with Lyman, Jones wrote NATE’s “Training Guidelines for Working on Communication and Similar Structures with a Gin Pole and Associated Equipment.”
“This safety resource was developed to provide minimum guidelines for worker training required for gin pole use for work relating to the installation, alteration and maintenance of communications structures. The Gin Pole and Associated Equipment Guideline Book is available to members and non-members alike,” Schlekeway said.
To honor Jones’ contributions to the tower industry and his life, the TIA TR14 committee will include a dedication to him in TIA322 when it is published in 2016. NATE also plans to recognize his contributions to the association and to climber safety at a later date.
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.
(Overland Park, KS) – The National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) announced today that it is seeking nominations from qualified Tower Technicians to fill several available seats on the inaugural NWSA Board of Governors. The NWSA is a national non-profit assessment and certification organization that is under development to provide thorough, independent assessments of knowledge and skills and provide verifiable worker certification in order to enhance safety, reduce workplace risk, improve quality, encourage training, and recognize the skilled professionals who work on towers and other non-standard structures.
The NWSA Board of Governors will consist of representatives from a broad cross-section of the industry and will be tasked with developing policy and overseeing the activities of the various Committees that will serve under the NWSA Board of Governors.
“These highly sought after Governance positions are critical to the organization’s success at a foundational level,” stated NWSA consultant Chuck Slagle, a former Sprint Environmental Health and Safety Executive. “This endeavor will transform the industry for the better, and this is a great opportunity for qualified Tower Technicians to be involved in a leadership capacity with the NWSA,” added Slagle.
Tower Technicians interested in applying for a seat on the NWSA Board of Governors must meet eligibility requirements including: completion of training at the Competent Climber/Rescue level or higher; having a minimum of 4 years of climbing experience; a commitment to serve a 2 year term; and providing demonstrated employer support regarding their ability to participate as a Governor. The complete eligibility criteria are outlined on the official NWSA Board of Governors Tower Technician Nomination Application. Interested candidates are encouraged to download the official application form at the website link HERE, to start the application process.
The deadline for applicants to submit their official application is Friday, June 19, 2015. All completed applications must be submitted via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.