Connect (X)

Tag Archives: drones

Drones Get Back-to-Back Trials in Disaster Recovery

By J. Sharpe Smith

With Hurricane Harvey barely in the rearview mirror, the nation now sees Irma, a category 5 hurricane squarely in the windshield. As the storm, with 185 MPH winds, appears to be set to barrel up the East Coast, striking Miami Sunday morning, drone companies are finalizing their plans to aid in recovery efforts.

One company, RDF Wireless, an aerial RF site inspection services company, is working with local and state officials in Virginia and North Carolina and FEMA officials, as well as carriers, in regard to providing drone assistance, according to Phil Larsen, president, RDF Wireless. The company is currently pulling pilots from multiple places to make up ten teams, which will be ready to be deployed by Monday.

“We are fairly confident that we will do some preliminary inspection work by this weekend, flying the high value areas, which we will then re-fly after the storm and to see if there was any change,” Larsen said.

RDF Wireless will fly over an area and perform a very detailed analysis of that area, including 3D mapping of the RF coverage area. Then the area flown over again, and any change in the site equipment or RF coverage area is noted down to the granular level. A topographical overlay is used so any changes in the environment and hazards can be detected.

Larsen has more than just wireless towers on his mind. He is also a veteran, firefighter and a swift water rescue technician. If called upon, he will leading a rescue team that could be deployed in boats to help people trapped in their homes during and immediately after the storm.

“If this storm hits massively, we will be able to respond to that, as well. We will do both. My goal is to be prepared with the right people and the right equipment to get it done,” he said.

More Cell Towers Back on the Air in Texas

By J. Sharpe Smith

UPDATE — Cell service in the area affected by Harvey continued to dramatically improve  over the long Labor Day weekend. Cells out of service now stand at 73 down from 150 on Sunday and down from 296 last Thursday, according to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System.

Additionally, the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency reduced the number of counties in Harvey’s disaster area to 13 — Texas: Aransas, Calhoun, Chambers, Hardin, Harris, Jefferson, Matagorda, Nueces, Orange, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Wharton — down from a high of 70 counties.

“As the storm raged on, our network continued to withstand the severity of the storm’s impact, with more than 98 percent of our sites in service,” said Lowell McAdam, CEO at Verizon. “To connect those in need, we’re offering free voice, and data to our postpaid customers and an extra 3GB of voice, and data to our prepaid customers in South Texas counties impacted by the hurricane through September 15th.”

Drone Companies Stand By to Help

Chris Moccia, executive vice president of Measure, the Drone as a Service Company, said his company has drone pilots in Texas and would be offering to the carriers to help get the cell towers back on the air, including generators, realtime video, trucks and supplies.

Measure was involved with the Verizon’s recovery following Hurricane Matthew last year, but catastrophic nature of Harvey brings a whole new scope to the services that will be needed.

“We anticipate having crews in the market for a while,” Moccia said. “There is a lot of flooding and a lot of damage to the infrastructure itself.”

DataWing Global is another drone company that is positioning itself to help in the aftermath of Harvey. DataWing drone pilots were scheduled to depart from the company’s San Antonio headquarters this morning to establish a mobile command center in Mathis, Texas, according to Jimmy Taylor,” senior vice president, business development, DataWing Global.

“We anticipate adding Part 107 pilots, aircraft and additional personnel to the area as the demand and need for resources develop over the next few weeks,” he said. “Until the weather clears and authorities allow access to the areas of devastation, DataWing will stand by collecting intelligence necessary to conduct tactical operations in a safe, prompt and legal manner.”

J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. 

AT&T Couples Video Analytics with Drones

By The Editors of AGL

The video analytics team at AT&T Labs has joined forces with our National Drone Team to bring automated cell tower inspections a step closer to reality as it maintains its inventory of 65,000 cell towers.

“With automation in the mix, we can do the job faster, better and more efficiently. With regulatory changes and further research, we hope that automated inspections will be possible,” said Mazin Gilbert – vice president of Advanced Technology at AT&T Labs.

AT&T envisions a future where a drone stationed by a cell tower will charges itself, inspects the tower, communicates the condition of the tower and repairs it.

“What we’re investigating is similar to what’s been happening with driverless cars. The ultimate goal is full automation, but we’re not there yet,” Gilbert said. “We created a deep learning-based algorithm that analyzes video footage and shows promise in detecting defects and anomalies. We’re investigating how drones can be used to inspect these towers and feed HD video to our technicians, who can view the video in real-time.”

Chinese Drone Maker Dropped by U.S. Army Over Cybersecurity Worries

By J. Sharpe Smith

There is controversy brewing in the drone world. The U.S. Army has dropped the use of all UAV products made by Chinese manufacture DJI Technology because of cybersecurity concerns, in a memo released earlier this month.

DJI, whose products are the most widely used commercial, off-the-shelf drones used by the Army, was accused of caching data obtained by the drones and sending them back to DJI’s computer servers over the internet.

The army will cease the use of any system that employs DJI electrical components or software including, flight computers, cameras, radios, batteries, speed controllers, GPS units and handheld control stations.

Phil Larsen, RDF Wireless, whose company only uses American-made drone products, said the  drone industry will not be adversely affected by the news.

“Drones aren’t going anywhere,” Larsen said. “The industry will just continue to grow, and now with DJI under scrutiny American companies will get a chance in the arena.”

This week, Reuters reported that DJI is improving the data security of its products in response the U.S. Army ban. A system is being developed that automatically disconnects from the internet during flight. This would protect any flight logs, photos or videos collected by the drones.


Bill Looks to Protect Aircraft from Drones

By the Editors of AGL

With the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, the skies have become more crowded these days. Pilots are reporting an increasing number of drone sightings, with 1,800 such reports in 2016, up from 1,200 the year before, according to Earl Lawrence, director of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office.

FAA has the authority to levy civil penalties for the reckless operation of a drone, but there currently is no criminal provision addressing unsafe drone operation.

A bill introduced in Congress before the August recess aims to change that, making it a criminal offense for drones to cause a safety risk to manned aircraft. Flying drones near an airport runway without air traffic control tower permission would be prohibited and violators would be subject to a fine or prison time.

The “Drone Operator Safety Act” was introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to protect air traffic from the misuse of drones.

“Drone operators who interfere with commercial air space put Americans’ safety at risk and give drones a bad name. This bill would crack down on that dangerous behavior and hold bad actors accountable,” said Whitehouse who has worked previously on air-safety legislation in the Senate.

The legislation was included in the Senate Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, which passed the Senate last year.