For the purpose of inspecting antenna masts in the Netherlands, T-Mobile has now taken delivery of the Aerialtronics Altura Zenith unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Jeffrey Leentjes, network specialist at T-Mobile, explains that telecoms companies can save time and significant operational costs when they use drones to inspect mobile communication towers. Aerialtronics and T-Mobile first announced their partnership last fall.
The UAV’s HD camera, equipped with thermal sensors and transmitters to share the information, produces high-resolution images for the inspections.
T-Mobile has tested the UAV near the Galgenwaard football stadium in Utrecht and discovered inspections that can take up to seven days with cherry pickers and a team of technicians took far less time with the Altura Zenith.
Leentjes, who has been assessing the Zenith during extensive phone mast inspections, explains, “We have 5,000 antennas located in very dense areas in the Netherlands. These antennas need to be inspected regularly.
‘Climbing towers can be restricted by the weather conditions. We would utilize the drone a lot more than the current setup. We also used a mobile device to test the handover between the different antennas, which delivered good results.”
He adds that safety is a major benefit of the technology. For instance, he says, “Using climbers or cherry pickers for the inspection can be a risky business, but with drones, it is less hazardous for inspectors.
‘Speed is also a big advantage. By carrying out inspections faster, it can be financially beneficial. Whereas we normally have to rent a cherry picker for three weeks or longer, if you have the drone set up already, you can do it in a more flexible way.”
Leentjes continues, ‘The fact that we are stepping into drone technology creates an opportunity to look at the development of the service. I think, in telecoms in general, there will be more utilization of drone technology in the future. For T-Mobile and Deutsche Telecom, it's very good to get the experience with Aerialtronics at such an early stage.”
Left to right: Jeremy Wigmore, CEO of Aerialtronics; Lampros Iskos, chief technology information officer of T-Mobile Netherlands; and Derk van Luijk, sales director of Aerialtronics