IBM Watson will power inspection drones that can spot damage on cell towers

Drones provide an eye in the sky. Now IBM wants to include a brain. The just-add-AI company has partnered with the Dutch drone maker Aerialtronics to provide an airborne inspection service that can do things like spot damage on cellphone towers. The drones’ cameras will connect to Watson’s visual recognition APIs, and the service will be trained to recognize certain types of problems, such as loose or frayed wires. 

Watson won’t simply flag a problem. It will provide a “confidence rating” so a company’s maintenance team can decide if repairs are required and when they should happen.

Aerialtronics is selling the service as one that can save maintenance workers from having to make so many dangerous climbs, but the company hasn’t actually sold anything so far. Rather, an IBM representative told Fast Company, “Aerialtronics is currently in talks with customers, but none to announce publicly for this evening.” Yet Aerialtronics and IBM are already talking about other sectors they can get into. For instance, the eyes in the sky could also spot dangerous crowding at public events and potentially prevent people from getting trampled, say the companies.

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