Vodafone and Ericsson are using lidar drones to virtualise the process for planning network deployment and site upgrades to make it safer, more efficient, and less damaging to the environment.
From an article in Tech Radar by Steve McCaskill.
Traditional approaches to network construction require a party of structural engineers, radio and transmission planners, acquisition agents, and site designers to travel to the site to collect data and conduct an assessment.
This increases the time and money required to build infrastructure, while the amount of travel increases carbon emissions. In any case, such a gathering has proved challenging during the pandemic.
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Vodafone and Ericsson’s trial of drones equipped with high-definition cameras and Lidar technology – which uses lasers to scan sites in a similar fashion to radar – will allow these site visits to be carried out by a single engineer.
Data is fed into a cloud-based ‘Digital Twin’ – a virtual representation of a physical environment. This allows engineers and planners to collaborate in real time from any location and simulate how any changes will affect the site or the network.
There is no need to climb towers, improving health and safety, while more accurate data reduces the need for repeat visits. Vodafone hopes the use of the technology will reduce CO2 emissions by 1.5 tonnes per 100 sites, while anything that reduces costs is always welcomed by operators who are investing significantly in 5G.
The first phase of the trial will see the system used to capture data from 70 sites due to be upgraded in the near future.
“The introduction of new technology to improve our processes has significant benefits for our own operational efficiencies and reducing our carbon footprint, but it also allows us to deliver on our promise to customers faster,” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK. “The less time, which is wasted travelling to sites, the more time can be invested in valuable tasks that improve the digital experience for our customers.”
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