Ericsson and Vodafone to use drone-based inspections on network sites

Swedish networking and telecommunications company, Ericsson are working with Vodafone UK to speed up network planning and site upgrades through a pilot test project that will use drones and LiDAR-based 3D technology.

The trials will use drones equipped with a high-definition cameras, alongside LiDAR technology, to collect data from network sites that can then be used by network engineering teams to perform site upgrades.

Ericsson and Vodafone UK will capture data from 30 sites around the UK that are due to be upgraded.

According to Ericsson, with the assistance of its Intelligent Site Engineering and the use of drone and Lidar-based technology, data on structural conditions and line-of-sight measurements can be collected by a single engineer, as opposed to site designers, structural engineers, acquisition agents and radio and transmission planners all ordinarily forming part of a standard site visit.

The data can be made available via the cloud as a digital twin model, which would be available for reference during virtual site meetings, allowing all stakeholders to be ‘on site’ from a remote location.

 “Our partnership with Vodafone to explore the benefits of Intelligent Site Engineering ensures that speed and sustainability are at the heart of our network rollout in the UK together,” said Björn Odenhammar, Chief Technology Officer, Networks and Managed Services, Ericsson UK and Ireland. “This is a demonstration of our rapid network delivery capabilities and our commitment to build a world-class digital infrastructure that will bring vital 5G connectivity to new regions, boost innovation and provide a foundation for the UK’s future economic success.”

In a statement, Ericsson said this project can help to ensure maximum accuracy of measurements and data collected from network sites, whilst simultaneously decreasing the health and safety risks associated with these collections by reducing the need for site engineers to climb towers.

The technology used in these trials could also reduce the carbon footprint of each site by minimising the number of visitors and weight of equipment needed for visits.

The introduction of drones and LiDAR technology has the potential to dramatically increase the efficiency of the planning process and consequently speed up network deployment for urban and rural communities in the UK, bringing vital connectivity and reliable networks to new locations across the country.

“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,” Andrea Dona, Director of Network Development, Vodafone UK, said. “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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