Vodafone UK and Ericsson test drone surveys to speed up network upgrades

News

The two are trialling drones and Lidar-based 3D technology to speed up network planning and site updates.

Vodafone and Ericsson are testing drones to carry out surveys of difficult to reach sites in rural areas and city centres. The aims are to save time and money, and reduce health and safety risks associated with surveys, and make the process greener.

Lidar equipped

The trial will use a drone equipped with a high-definition camera, alongside Lidar technology – which targets an object with a laser and measures the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver – to capture accurate data that can be used by the network engineering team to perform site upgrades.

In the trial Vodafone and Ericsson will capture data from 70 sites that are due to be upgraded instead of having to send out radio and transmission planners, acquisition agents, structural engineers and site designers all having to make separate visits.

Vodafone is looking to lessen its carbon footprint due to fewer visits being necessary if data can be more accurately collected at the first attempt.

Digital twin

Using Ericsson's Intelligent Site Engineering, drone and Lidar technology, information on structural conditions and line-of-sight measurements can be collected by a single engineer, with all the data captured and made accessible via the cloud as a digital twin model.

This digital twin is then used to perform a virtual site meeting, allowing all stakeholders to be on site virtually at the same time from a remote location. This process has already been used as part of Vodafone's network deployment programme during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 70 sites visited in this way.

Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, said, "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. 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."