In early July, Drone Harmony released its 3D automatic mission planning Android app, which also forms the basis for a market-first full 3D, automated and optimized inspection app tailored for the cell tower industry, and featuring a scene-centered workflow with full 3D planning environment and obstacle avoidance.
Drone Harmony has reinvented commercial drones flying by introducing a unique professional flight planner app which provides users complete safety and fully automated quality flight, right from obstacle avoiding plan generation to the actual flight execution.
Drone Harmony has completed projects with several industry partners on drone workflow automation for various industrial applications, including Bentley System’s Reality Modelling team, SiteSee (AUS), the iGlobe Group (RSA), VertSpec (USA) and EasyInspect (Denmark), as well as numerous customers and retailers around the world. More than 20,000 experienced professional pilots, hobby pilots and beginners have already benefitted from the powerful Drone Harmony mission planner.
David Adjiashvili, chief scientist at Drone Harmony spoke with in an interview with executive editor of Diversified Communications:
Do you think drones have the potential to help the cell tower inspection industry more so than in any other sector? If so, why?
This is definitely one of the markets that can benefit the most- already now. On the one hand, cell site owners are actively looking for ways to cut maintenance costs and with their current processes, they are struggling to do so. They have been experimenting with drone-based inspections and are now looking for company-wide deployment. On the other hand, both drone hardware and software technologies have matured to the level that the entire inspection process can be streamlined and automated. Furthermore, cell tower inspections require high-proximity flight around the tower, meaning the flight can be performed in a relatively small area around the tower, and eliminating regulatory barriers involved in flying beyond visual line of sight and in restricted airspace (e.g. above 400 feet). Finally, the addressable market is huge: with ~3 million (~600k in the US and Europe each) towers worldwide (and expected to grow dramatically for 5G adoption).
What are some of the factors that go into drones being able to reduce inspection costs by as much as 50%?
Ultimately, a cell tower inspection with a drone will become a single click operation, with minimal risk and a guarantee of high quality reproducible results. The way to achieve this is by automating the three main steps: data capture, digital model reconstruction and 3D-model based analytics/report generation, and to streamline them into a single seamless workflow. The result is a significantly faster process dramatically reducing the time spent on site, which can be performed by almost any engineer with minimal drone training and with literally no injury risk whatsoever.
This is to be compared with traditional inspections consisting of a highly skilled engineer climbing the tower to visually inspect some components, and collect imagery from some angles to later inspect in the office.
The iGlobe Group provides unmanned inspections services, focusing on geospatial orientated applications in the mining, municipality, utility, and private sector, and have tested Drone Harmony Cell Tower Scan on the field extensively.
Feedback from iGlobe Group was that both managers and pilots are enthusiastic about this app, saying that they were able to reduce the inspection time from 19 to just 8 hours and drastically increase the quality of the deliverables. In a series of questions, management elaborated on their experience using the Drone Harmony Cell Tower Scan app.
How quickly can you train new staff to use Drone Harmony?
The Drone Harmony application makes training fast and easy. For the inexperienced pilot in terms of 3D modelling/inspection flying it can take up to 30 minutes to fully brief the Pilot on the purpose with 30 minutes on the actual software including mission setup. So, after and hour the pilot can be ready to carry out the mission.
Do you foresee any change in processes with the introduction of Drone Harmony?
There will definitely be a change, specifically in planning resources. The Drone Harmony application allows for faster acquisition times as well as safe acquisition of the data. Therefore, the company will be able to capture more datasets per day than previous methods. Previous methods needed much more experienced pilots and the data was very inconsistent.
Do you think DH affects your corporate success / brings more profit to your enterprise?
Absolutely! Previous methods were slow and time consuming. Besides, for the time constraint there was a quality factor which was also important for the sale of the whole solution. With the Drone Harmony application acquisition was consistent, the flight patterns and automation provided us with consistent high-quality models for the purposes of tower inspections. Every trip out got us a usable tower model and with testing on the same tower we got consistent results every acquisition.
The unique features of the Drone Harmony app include:
- Full automation: Plan generation, obstacle avoidance and flights done automatically.
- Full 3D interface: All interactions from objects definitions through plan generation to the flight itself are visualized in 3D to eliminate uncertainty and errors.
- Better quality in less time: Collection of ultra-high resolution images and videos, precise and fully reproducible in a fraction of the time.
- Easy to use and learn: Intuitive interfaces, full visualization and training in less than 30min.
Drone Harmony Mission Planner app is the basis of a new fully automated capture app tailored for cell tower inspections, automating workflows to reduce life risk for tower climbers and cutting inspection costs by as much as 50%. Planning and setting up the inspection flight with Drone Harmony takes about 5 – 10 minutes.
Overall, Drone Harmony’s new app has the potential to save time, while providing complete and accurate data with no special training required for staff.