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