Can you talk about scale and why drones aren’t commonplace at tower sites today?

The importance of millimeter accurate drone data on towers

Part 3 of 4: Scaling a drone program


Ted Miller

Founder & Chairman
Visual Intelligence

Laura Graves

Head of Global Content & Research

  Part 3 of 4: Addressing the challenges of scaling a drone program  

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 

Can you talk about scale and why drones aren’t commonplace at tower sites today?

 Ted Miller 

I don’t think tower companies have been ready to have a serious conversation about scale, because drone data has yet to achieve a fidelity that is meaningful across the organization. The cart is way out ahead of the horse here.

Why would you want to scale a drone solution that satisfies a small portion of data requirements and still requires a truck roll to collect more accurate measurements by hand? These solutions augment existing processes, but they do little to replace them. The costly part of drone collection is manpower and time. If you’re going to invest in mobilizing a workforce to capture tower data, why not collect a fidelity that’s reusable and serves new use cases that extend beyond just field inspections?

I think we were so excited by the prospect of drones replacing climbers, that we charged right past data fidelity questions and immediately started to talk about how to scale a solution. I know drone companies were eager to have that conversation. Hence, today’s solutions largely address field operations, but neglect many other crucial operations.


When you look at the Covid vaccine rollout, we couldn’t solve for distribution until a vaccine met our requirements for effectiveness. It’s no different with drone data.

Look at it this way. Think about COVID-19 vaccines for a minute. We didn’t solve for distribution before we knew what a vaccine looked like. We couldn’t. Instead, we waited for a vaccine that yielded a high enough efficacy, and only then could we look at how to roll it out to our populations. Just think – the first widely accepted vaccine had to be transported below zero in specialized freezers, it had a short shelf-life of weeks, and it required two separate shots spaced 30 days apart. It met our requirements for effectiveness, so we had to then solve for the complex logistics of scale. It’s no different talking about scaling a drone program on towers. We need to first deliver value at a foundational level, in this case engineering, and only then can we have a meaningful conversation about scale.

We’ve addressed scale head on at Visual Intelligence, and we’ve proven our ability to capture and process high volumes of towers and data. To unlock repeatable datasets across tower portfolios, we’ve created an enterprise operations platform that automates nearly every facet in the tower insight supply chain. Our software makes it easy to manage pilots, check equipment, dispatch tower captures, execute autonomous drone missions, upload data and more – all from one central portal.

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