On a dusty hillside near Friant stands an AT&T tower overlooking Millerton Lake and a growing housing development. That tower was recently the focal point for AT&T drone operators and engineers as the telecommunications company looks for ways to use drones, video and artificial intelligence to pick up abnormalities and defects in its equipment. The goal: To make cell tower inspections safer and more efficient.
The drone begins by mapping a tower that is in perfect condition. “The next time the drone inspects the tower and captures an image that’s different from the perfect condition example, it will alert our engineers so they can determine if something is abnormal or needs fixing,” said Leland Kim, Media Relations Director for AT&T.
“This use of AI with drones will save countless number of hours of our engineers having to review hours of video footage. Their time can be best used to do the actual work, and make repairs if necessary, or do upgrades.”
AT&T has 65,000 cellular towers to inspect regularly. Most are 100 feet tall. AT&T Labs representatives and the National Drone team who were in Friant say the project is in its experimental phase. They hope one day what they learn here can be used for cell site inspections nationwide that provide a more detailed view than human tower climbers are able to provide.