INTERVIEW
The importance of millimeter accurate drone data on towers

Part 2 of 4: The drone data dilemma 

THE IMPORTANCE OF MILLIMETER ACCURATE DRONE DATA ON TOWERS

Ted Miller

Founder & Chairman
Visual Intelligence

Laura Graves

Head of Global Content & Research
TowerXchange

  Part 2 of 4: The drone data dilemma  

An interview with Ted Miller, Founder and former Chairman / CEO of Crown Castle International and Founder and Chairman of Visual Intelligence

Recognized as one of the founding fathers of the global tower industry, Ted Miller has now turned his attention to drones and the digitalization of the sector to address some of the big issues that towercos still face 25 years on from his founding of Crown Castle. As manufacturers of the first drone sensor technology to provide millimeter accuracy, and with a unique partnership in place with Bentley, Visual Intelligence is set to revolutionize the way that towercos operate and do business.

 Laura Graves 

What is the problem with drone data today? Why does millimeter-accuracy matter and how do you achieve this?

 Ted Miller 

It’s simple really. Better drone data fidelity and greater tower coverage enables smarter artificial intelligence, engineering measurability and increased automation ability.

The problem is, tower analytics are limited by the data fidelity that drone sensors can produce, and the single camera sensors on drones today are not designed to capture better than centimeter-accuracy. This lack of fidelity inhibits artificial intelligence from performing a higher degree of automation and more sophisticated tower capacity and structural analysis. While inspection-grade data is useful for some types of field inspections, it does not remove the need for a climber to collect engineering-grade measurements or for an engineer to manually generate drawings.

However, when the drone sensor can achieve millimeter accuracy, the potential of digital twins to augment and replace manual tasks grows exponentially. Engineering-grade tower models increase operational capacity at the engineering level, and unlock insights upstream and across new business units. This enables tower companies to understand leasable inventory, continuously assess real-time tower capacity, and collaborate across one source of tower truth.

DATA CLASSIFICATIONS

Millimeter accuracy is required for critical measurements like bolt sizes and plate thicknesses.

Achieving millimeter drone data accuracy on towers requires a different kind of sensor system than currently available. We’ve spent years developing the world’s first drone sensor payload capable of consistently digitizing tower structures with both millimeter accuracy and a 100% coverage footprint. Using patented dual-sensor technology, we generate billions of datapoint on each tower to map more measurable surface area than any alternative aerial or ground-based approach. With multi-angle perspectives and sub-millimeter resolution that doesn’t vary more than a millimeter during orbital collection, we provide access to all angles of towers, platforms and appurtenances on a highly repeatable basis with unparalleled reliability. Our sensor solution tailors the field of view based on the tower profile, and not only provides more pixels on target, but it also operates at a much safer standoff distance.

 Laura Graves 

Why is it DJI Mavics or Phantoms cannot capture that same data?

 Ted Miller 

The popularity and utility of DJI Mavics and Phantoms make them great tools for photography, videos and mapping. However, these drones were never designed to capture anything better than inspection-class data. It doesn’t matter if you fly them one at a time or in multi-drone hives, the limitation is inherent to the sensor itself.

Off-the-shelf single-sensor drones have a much lower resolution camera and single wide-field optics, meaning they cannot produce the definition required to produce millimeter precision of the component parts of the structure, mounting frames or tower mounted equipment.

Even when trying to fly closer to the tower, these drones potentially have 50 to 100 times less pixel data available to process than gathered by the Visual Intelligence sensors. And, as these drones fly closer and closer to the tower, risk increases, pilot skill becomes more important, and interference from RF emissions and orbital drift become major factors.

When you look at Mavics and Phantoms through the lens of consistency, reliability or repeatability, these drones don’t come close to providing millimeter accuracy.

VIEW INFOGRAPHIC
Understanding Drone Data Classes

Drone sensors traditionally provide Inspection Class information. Visual Intelligence created a new kind of sensor that is capable of collecting Engineering Class data across 99% of a tower structure.

Download our complete guide comparing 3D tower data. 

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Off-the-shelf single-sensor drones have a much lower resolution camera and single wide-field optics, meaning they cannot produce the definition required to produce millimeter precision of the component parts of the structure, mounting frames or tower mounted equipment.

Even when trying to fly closer to the tower, these drones potentially have 50 to 100 times less pixel data available to process than gathered by the Visual Intelligence sensors. And, as these drones fly closer and closer to the tower, risk increases, pilot skill becomes more important, and interference from RF emissions and orbital drift become major factors.

When you look at Mavics and Phantoms through the lens of consistency, reliability or repeatability, these drones don’t come close to providing millimeter accuracy.

Read the full article here.

You will learn:

  • Challenges the tower industry has been facing for the past 25 years that are now being exacerbated
  • How Visual Intelligence’s ability to capture engineering grade measurements will revolutionize ways of working
  • What limitations of other drone technologies has Visual Intelligence overcome?
  • The nature of Visual Intelligence’s partnership with Bentley and what OpenTower iQ has to offer
  • The impact that digital twins can have throughout the entire towerco org chart and supply chain