AT&T to Use AI and Drones for Cell Tower Inspections

With the advancement in technology, we are witnessing a rapid increase in the applications of drone. From surveying and mapping to simple tasks like photography, drones have come a long way, but we are yet to witness them reach their maximum potential. Yes, you can find drones for sale and being used by youngsters in the park, but you can also find them being used for advanced science and research program or security.

In a recent blog post, Mazin Gilbert, the Vice President of advanced technology at AT&T wrote, “Imagine in the future a drone stationed by a cell tower. It fully charges itself. It then inspects and communicates the condition of the tower – and potentially repairs it.”

Yes, AT&T has been already engaged in endeavors to utilize drones for cell tower inspections, but now the company is planning to take this a step further. It has been reported that the carrier is planning on automating the process of cell tower inspections using artificial intelligence.

A whole new level of advancement, isn’t it?

AT&T said that its AT&T Labs video analytics team has been working to develop an algorithm that can analyze footage and detect any anomaly in the infrastructure. What they are trying to deliver is similar to driverless cars with the ultimate goals being able to use a fully automated drone to inspect, detect and repair its 65,000 cell towers.

AT&T had already announced its use of contracted drones for inspection of cell towers and also launched the trial phase of National Drone Program last year. The carrier is now trying to build up internal solutions while creating a new network and develop customer solutions.

AT&T’s IoT President, Chris Penrose, while speaking at the Mobile World Congress told that they were looking to leverage drones for applications like disaster recovery and information gathering. Chris Penrose also noted that the process of Drone development is likely to shadow the evolution of autonomous cars. Since drones need to be driven and communicate with each other, the insights from the development of autonomous car might serve as a guide.

A successful test of a drone-based flying cell-on-wheels was conducted in February this year. The main aim of the test was to improve coverage at certain events and during emergency situations like disasters. AT&T indicated that flying equipment could be easily deployed in certain situations as opposed to ground-based COWs, due to their smaller sizes. Unlike traditional Cows, drone setup flies 500 percent higher (around 300 feet), and can also provide wider coverage to areas of around 40 square miles.

AT&T is not the only carrier seeking to utilize drones. Other wireless carriers including Verizon has also been working on a drone-based solution.