Telus First Carrier in Canada to Use Drones for Cell Tower Maintenance

What’s one way to make managing cell tower maintenance easier and safer for crews? Use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which is exactly what TELUS is doing, and is the only carrier in Canada to do so right now, reports itbusiness (via MobileSyrup).

So far, the use of drones as part of the company’s regular maintenance plan is only taking place in Alberta, with distributor Gap Wireless providing equipment to Telus. The wireless carrier gave a presentation on their drone-assisted inspections last week at the Canadian Wireless Trade Show in Toronto.

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Jason DeHetre, national manager of planning and engineering at Telus Corp, explained the company acquired Special Flight Operations Certificates (SFOC) from Transport Canada, in areas where it wanted to use drones. It then trained their staff in-house, to setup how to perform drone checks in teams of two, for safety (one flying the drone; another checking below).

The company is using industrial versions of the DJI Inspire, despite trying tests first with consumer versions like the Phantom. However, the latter proved too light to operate in windy Alberta.

Gap Wireless says Telus is “definitely at the forefront in Canada,” saying the company’s in-house training of drone pilots gives them an advantage on the competition.

Drones are able to use mounted zoom cameras to spot antenna weak spots. Examples provided showed how a drone was able to spot ice damage on microwave antennae, much easier and faster than a crew checking it out manually.

DeHetre said “Eventually that will be a failure point and we’ll have a client outage,” adding “If we know ahead of time, we can schedule a maintenance window.”

Gap Wireless and Telus started talks of using drones for maintenance inspections back in 2014, and now they are a reality.