How drones are revolutionizing the telecom industry

How drones are revolutionizing the telecom industry

From agriculture to engineering, insurance, and infrastructure, the enterprise use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, is on the rise.

PwC estimates that the total market value of drone-powered enterprise solutions will exceed $127bn, with the value of drones to communication service providers accounting for nearly $20bn.

For telecom operators, drones open the door to a range of opportunities. Due to the costs and expertise required to provide these solutions, it is not viable for individual organizations to establish their capabilities; and there lies the opportunity for telecom operators.

The benefit of drone technology is not a new concept in the telecom industry. In 2016, Etisalat won a prestigious Glomo Award at Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona, in recognition of the “Drones 4 Good” initiative. Etisalat’s “Drones 4 Good” came first in the ‘Best Mobile Innovation for Health’ category, as it demonstrated the use of specialized drones to transport polio vaccine to remote locations.

The benefit of drone technology is not a new concept in the telecom industry. In 2016, Etisalat won a prestigious Glomo Award at Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona, in recognition of the “Drones 4 Good” initiative. Etisalat’s “Drones 4 Good” came first in the ‘Best Mobile Innovation for Health’ category, as it demonstrated the use of specialized drones to transport polio vaccine to remote locations.

Telecoms operators are well-positioned to develop these capabilities by building on their existing strengths in connectivity, cloud, big data, and analytics, as well as capitalizing on the partnerships they already have in place to augment these capabilities.

As connectivity improves and automation increases, we can expect to see drones at the edge, completing autonomous missions, and uploading data directly to the cloud, bringing substantial business benefit to telcos and other enterprises.

Drones make it possible to perform remote engineering and network planning tasks, automate tower inspections, and enhance the measurement of wireless coverage and performance. They will help accelerate the rollout of 5G networks and enable new use cases leveraging 5G connectivity.

It appears as though the future of drones is now. And the coronavirus pandemic has certainly helped to speed up adoption and use cases for aerial fleets.

Automating inspections

The key application areas for drones in telecoms are maintenance monitoring and keeping infrastructure and installations in good condition. 

In the past, technicians had to climb to the top of towers and complete a manual count on the different installed equipment. Manual inspections are usually conducted on a limited portion of the tower, meaning that many telcos don’t have a complete record of the equipment mounted on their towers or comprehensive data on whether towers have available space to host new equipment.

As a result, these companies often find themselves without a central digital repository for processing insights – and no easy way to gain meaningful, portfolio-wide intelligence.

Automated drone inspections offer a powerful alternative. Using high-precision flight planning, automated capture, and intelligent data processing, telcos can automate the tower inspection process and use drones to autonomously survey their assets.

Drones can inspect installed equipment at the top of towers or over large areas with greater speed – lowering costs and reducing the risks to staff. The drones can take pictures, videos, measurements, and readings, and store the data for later use.

AT&T launched a programme in October 2016 that uses drones to inspect cell towers. Verizon also uses drones to inspect tower sites affected by severe storm flooding. AT&T uses drones to test signal strength across different regions in the US. Nokia has performed similar experiments in the UAE.

According to the GSMA’s latest Mobile Economy report, operators will spend $1.1 trillion globally in CAPEX between now and 2025, 80% of which will be on 5G networks. These 5G networks will require telcos to build, inspect, and maintain more sites, which will ultimately serve as locations for drone technology.

Drone-powered solutions

With the telecoms market evolving and operators seeking new commercial opportunities, the potential market for drone-powered solutions (DPS) is significant.

In addition to the benefits DPS can provide to telecom operators, there is also an opportunity for telecom operators to provide these solutions as services to other organizations.

Telcos have deep expertise in connectivity, cloud computing, and big data, and already have network infrastructure in place. This means they are uniquely positioned to monetize enterprise drone operations and become expert providers of automated drone solutions to private enterprises and the public sector.

Telcos could offer DPS by building partnerships in areas related to drone procurement, data processing, and data delivery, and by leveraging their internal capabilities across the value chain.

According to a Vodafone white paper, because telcos already possess the cloud infrastructure and network capacity needed to manage, store, and archive high volumes of data, it won’t take much for them to meet the need for data live-streaming, analyse drone-collected data, and provide their customers with unique insights.

A PwC report also states that the market for DPS, excluding drone procurement, in the Gulf Cooperation Council is expected to reach US$1.5 billion by 2022. This market can be served through multiple business models, such as end-to-end commercial drone services, on-demand live video data acquisition, or a fully autonomous system operated at a client’s premises.

Drone traffic control centers

Telecom operators could help to establish a drone traffic control center (DTCC) that would enable control of drone operations, and ensure compliance with regulations.

Telecom operators can provide the connectivity required for data transfer so that drones can be tracked by airspace regulators and receive real-time air traffic information.

Telcos could facilitate the technology components of the DTCC, from end to end, by supplying and managing data storage, connectivity, cybersecurity, professional services, and applications, including a drone traffic management system and real-time reporting and analytics.

By becoming a provider of these services, telecom operators will be able to meet their own needs, quickly gain a critical mass of skills and experience, and then offer these services to the market – achieving economies of scale and building new revenue streams.

Challenges

Before telcos can seize on the efficiency and revenue-generating opportunities that drones provide, they must first be able to conduct safe and compliant drone operations. Drones fly in low-altitude airspace, which can introduce new safety and compliance concerns.

To realize the full potential of drone technologies, it will be vital to have air traffic management systems in place that prevents collisions between drones and other aircraft.

Along with the benefits with drones to the telecom industry comes a responsibility to operate them in ways that respect personal privacy. As drone operators perform flights over various types of sites, the vast amount of data they collect could include sensitive or confidential information about private property or behaviour.

Given this risk, there is a need for clear international laws and guidelines on how companies should store data, and how individuals and companies can defend their privacy rights.

The lack of clarity on this vital issue of privacy is discouraging some companies from adopting drone-powered solutions.

Article by Telecom Review

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Operation “foreverwing” to combat illegal drone use.

HOME OFFICE, POLICE AND CAA JOIN TOGETHER TO ACT ON DRONE CRIME

  • Operation Foreverwing will raise awareness of enforcement work taking place around drones
  • More than 330 drone-related incidents recorded during the last five months

LONDON, 22 March 2021: The Home Office, Police and UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) today announce a new campaign aimed at clamping down on drone-related crimes, after 336 drone-related incidents were recorded during the last five months in the UK.

LONDON, 22 March 2021: The Home Office, Police and UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) today announce a new campaign aimed at clamping down on drone-related crimes, after 336 drone-related incidents were recorded during the last five months in the UK.

New Campaign “Foreverwing”

The new campaign, Operation Foreverwing, will see the three organisations work together to show the work the Police is doing around tackling drone crime, in a bid to deter drone owners from breaking the rules.

The Police has dedicated drone teams located across the country, tasked with enforcing the law by handing out fines and confiscating drones if people fail to stick to the rules.  With the CAA setting the rules for drone flying, the campaign will raise awareness of the rules while reminding those tempted to break them of the consequences.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for counter Drones, Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, said:

“The use of drones has increased dramatically in recent years and as a result of that we are seeing instances of dangerous and irresponsible flying.

“If you are a drone owner it is your responsibility to make sure you are following the rules for your own safety and that of others around you.

“These rules can be found in the Drone Code on the CAA website.”

CAA Registration

UK law now dictates that CAA registration is mandatory for operators of drones over 250 grams and all drones other than toys that are fitted with a camera. Failure to register leaves drone users at risk of penalties up to £1,000.

The campaign will see more cooperation between the bodies and joint education targeting drone users.

Jonathan Nicholson, Assistant Director of Communications, CAA, said: 

“With close to 200,000 registered drone owners across the UK, the skies are becoming increasingly busy. Our objective is not to stop people having fun or using their drone for business, it’s to make sure that everyone can share the air safely and that means sticking to the rules outlined in the Drone Code.

“Drones can cost thousands of pounds, and with fines for breaking the rules, the costs can quickly add up for those failing to comply.”

For more information on UK drone regulations, registration and the Drone Code please visit www.caa.co.uk/drones

Media contacts

For further information please contact the CAA at 0333 103 6000 (08:30 – 17:30 Monday to Friday). Out of hours: 07789 745 636.

Alternatively, you can email on: press.office@caa.co.uk (monitored during office hours) 

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A Case for Drones – In a Post Grenfell Landscape

The Grenfell disaster which claimed the lives of 72 people was not a one-off event, absorbed and grieved over before everyone moved on. The repercussions of that night are still with us and continue to be significant for residents of high-rise buildings across the country. And, indeed, for the landlords, housing associations and local authorities responsible for those properties.

The task facing the nation’s property managers is huge. They have to survey an estimated 1,700 high rise blocks, remove the cladding and make them safe to live in. And they need to do it quickly.

The Government has pledged £1.6bn towards these remediation efforts but it is a complex system, one that has come under attack for its perceived inaccessibility. But perhaps more pressing is the view held by the Housing, Communities & Local Government Committee that this £1.6bn will only be enough to repair a third of the properties currently considered unsafe.

Which presents a huge fiscal challenge for everyone involved, not least local authorities. 

It has been estimated by the same Committee that the cost of making each building safe will be £1.7m, covering everything from initial inspection, to the removal of cladding, to finishing the job. While it is clear that cutting corners or looking for cost savings in materials isn’t a viable option, there remains a pressing responsibility to keep costs down to make that fund stretch as far as is safely possible.

One part of the process where costs and timescales can be significantly reduced is in the inspection and survey of all these buildings through the use of drones. Not only can they do what a human can at a fraction of the cost, they can do it faster and with a greater degree of safety.

Drones are often viewed in extremes – either as a hobbyist’s toy or as a weapon of war. They are of course both, but increasingly, they are making their presence felt in the commercial world as more and more organisations wake up to their flexibility and adaptability. And one such area is the surveying of inaccessible properties.

Using High Resolution RGB imaging, drones can inspect the condition of a high-rise property (at a distance), in minute detail, in a fraction of the time it would take to do so manually using scaffolding, cherry pickers or ropes. The High Resolution RGB imaging is then translated into a 3D interactive model of the property which can be inspected in detail (up to 20mm) highlighting even the smallest amounts of damage to the outside and, when using thermal imaging, investigating anomalies such as damp ingress and thermal efficiency of the fabric of the building.

If LIDAR is incorporated increased levels of accuracy can be achieved down to 10mm and below.

The whole process, from instruction to inspecting the model, can take two or three days rather than the weeks and months required with traditional methods, and it is the speed with which drones can conduct surveys that should have landlords and local authorities sitting up and taking notice.

One of the problems facing property managers is understanding, in detail, the scope of the risk posed by their property portfolio and with the safety of tenants paramount, they need to understand it quickly.

Drones can help them do that as several inspections can be conducted in one day or over a period of days, providing the local authority with a quick, comprehensive view of their portfolio, including which properties pose the highest risk.

From here, the triage process begins, and drones are a speedy, cost-effective way of streamlining it, allowing the local authority to act quickly on its most vulnerable properties.

Drones can also act as a quality control tool to monitor and assess the ongoing work, and that governance role extends to post-work inspections to ensure the property has been re-instated as required.

If used properly, drones could and should act as the start and finish point of this remediation work and while they are not, of course, a catch-all solution for the many problems dogging the remediation programme, they do have a crucial role to play.

If the current remediation fund will not, as has been suggested, be sufficient to complete all the necessary work, then it is vital that any safe, reliable and proven cost-cutting measure be embraced as soon as possible.

In common with much of the commercial world, local authorities are at the early stages of exploring the possibilities presented by commercial drones. And in common with their private sector peers, it is those that recognise the opportunity earliest and act first, that will gain the most.

And that means giving tenants up and down the country quicker and more certain reassurance that they and their families are safe in their home.

Rebecca Jones is CEO and co-founder of Iprosurv

This and other articles can be viewed at LocalGov

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Police to get new powers to combat illegal drone use

The government will issue police with new detention and disruption equipment as part of its strategy regarding the criminal use of UAVs, The Times has reported.

The strategy also includes the development of an international set of standards for manufacturers, which aims to ensure that all drones are fitted with safety features.

The news follows the announcement of air traffic management legislation in the Queen’s Speech last week, which will give police more powers to stop and search suspected drone users.

The legislation, which will come into effect at the end of November, requires all operators of drones weighing more than 250g to register with the Civil Aviation Authority.

The strategy is part of a response to the Gatwick airport incident last December which led to the cancellation of around1,000 flights, and growing drone use in the UK.

Security minister Brandon Lewis wrote in The Times that the new strategy will “protect against threats while being careful not to get in the way of those working to harness this technology for good”.

Article published in Commercial Drone Professional click here for link to this article and many more.

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NATS New Free Drone Training Online

NATS has today launched its new free online drone training course, aimed at new drone owners and hobbyists.

Steve Graham, head of business engagement at NATS, said: “We hope new and existing drone users will find our new online hobbyist course useful as a fun-to-use tool with a serious message. NATS strongly supports fair and equal access for all types of aircraft, manned and unmanned, in integrated airspace – and it is important that all users of airspace do so safely, responsibly, and with due regard for the needs of others.”

Adding: “By designing an animated video with clear and accessible voice over narration and multiple-choice quiz questions, our aim is to provide accurate and practical information as a reference guide that will be helpful for all drone operators, especially new drone owners and hobbyists.”

NATS new Free Online Course is available here

Article published in Commercial Drone Professional Magazine.

The full article and other drone related news can be found at here online at Commercial Drone Professional

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https://iprosurv.com/2021/08/25/how-drones-are-revolutionizing-the-telecom-industry/How drones are revolutionizing the telecom industry

https://iprosurv.com/2021/03/22/operation-foreverwing-to-combat-illegal-drone-use/Operation “foreverwing” to combat illegal drone use.

https://iprosurv.com/2020/09/25/a-case-for-drones-in-a-post-grenfell-landscape/A Case for Drones – In a Post Grenfell Landscape

https://iprosurv.com/2019/10/21/police-to-get-new-powers-to-combat-illegal-drone-use/Police to get new powers to combat illegal drone use

https://iprosurv.com/2019/10/16/nats-new-free-drone-training-online/NATS New Free Drone Training Online