Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Give Engineers a Bird’s Eye View of Cellular Antenna, RF Patterns
Building on its reputation for using the latest tools to monitor and enhance wireless network quality, P3 Group today announced the launch of a new drone program in the U.S. that promises to increase the speed, safety and accuracy of its radio frequency (RF) analysis and reporting for the wireless industry.
From a safe distance, a P3 drone can easily provide the high definition video and photos needed to ensure protected birds nesting atop cell towers are not endangered by interference hunting activities.
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) will initially be deployed by P3’s interference hunting team, which tracks down and eliminates sources of RF interference that can result in everything from minor static and dropped calls to interruptions in vital data connections and throughput.
Michael Schwab, vice president of radio access engineering for New Jersey-based P3 communications, Inc., said the program is made possible by new rules for commercial drones, issued by the FAA last summer. “The FAA significantly lowered the barrier to entry for commercial drone operations when it created remote pilot certification standards this past summer. An operator no longer has to hold an airplane pilot’s license to use a drone for commercial purposes within newly defined parameters. I received my Remote Pilot Certificate last month and we have begun to utilize drones in our interference hunting operations.”
P3, a leading global consulting, management and engineering services company, has provided interference hunting services for major wireless carriers in the U.S. since 2010. P3 interference busters specialize in pinpointing and analyzing sources of external RF interference using high-tech equipment, spectrum plots and expert analysis to identify and shut down interference-emitting devices that can range from in-building signal amplifiers to household baby monitors.
“Although current regulations allow commercial drones to fly as high as 400 feet, cellular antennas are mounted on towers that are typically 100-200 feet in height,” Schwab said. “Drones can access these wireless transmitters in areas of a tower that human climbers cannot safely reach. Drones will make our work around towers safer, faster and provide more information than manual inspections. This will allow mobile operators to more quickly address problem areas to improve performance and enhance the overall customer experience and satisfaction with their service.”
Wireless carriers and consumers are not the only beneficiaries of P3’s drone deployment. Cellular towers are popular nesting sites for birds, included protected species like bald and golden eagles. Schwab said P3 will handle work around cellular towers with eagle, osprey or other bird nests very carefully during breeding season. From a safe distance, a drone can easily provide the high resolution video and photos we need to ensure that chicks are no longer in a nest before carriers bring in the heavier equipment and personnel to begin working on a tower,” he said.
P3 will assign a two-person team to each drone — a pilot to fly it via remote control and an engineer to monitor the live data stream to look for interference issues. Common sources of interference include Wi-Fi routers, LED signs and billboards, security cameras and even florescent lights.
A drone also can assess the physical condition of tower antenna arrays to see if cables are disconnected or if there are rusty parts that need replacement. Since a drone can easily circle a tower’s sectored antennas, it also can accurately measure RF patterns, pinpointing the strongest signal propagation, which P3 then plots as 3-dimensional charts.
P3 CEO Dirk Bernhardt added, “Our strength is in developing and implementing innovative solutions to complex technology challenges. We fully expect to discover many new applications and opportunities for drone inspection, troubleshooting and data collection. The sky’s no limit to the value these new aerial tools bring to telecommunications and many other industries.”
P3 communications provides a broad portfolio of independent technical and management consulting services including network planning, engineering, end-to-end optimization, market intelligence, security, QoS and QoE testing, international benchmarking, device testing and acceptance services. It is recognized worldwide as the completely neutral authority on network quality and today is breaking new ground with its proprietary on-device customer experience measurement framework. In addition to wireless carriers and device manufacturers, P3’s telecommunications clients include infrastructure vendors, public safety organizations and regulatory authorities. For more information about P3 visit http://www.p3-group.com.
P3 is a global consulting, management and engineering services company, with a rapidly growing team of more than 3,000 consultants and engineers working to develop and implement innovative solutions to today’s complex technology challenges. Offering a broad portfolio of services and proprietary tools to the automotive, aerospace, telecommunications and energy industries, P3 adds tangible value that helps clients succeed at every stage, from innovation to implementation. For more information please visit www.p3-group.com.