Inside Unmanned Systems

OCT-NOV 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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23 unmanned systems inside October/November 2017 ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. C ell phone access is vital after disas- ters like Harvey and Irma. Victims need to have a way to call 911 to get the help they need, and to reach loved ones to let them know they're OK. Companies like Verizon work as fast as they can to get down towers restored, and drones are now often part of that process—as was the case after Harvey. Even though they had teams on standby to help address Irma's aftermath, Verizon didn't need to fl y drones for assessments because there wasn't as much fl ooding in Florida. "We used the drones to fly up and survey the tops of towers and also the base stations," Verizon spokesperson Karen Schulz said. "It saves us time on surveying damage and assessing what needs to be done. During Matthew last year, we sent a drone to a site we couldn't access because of fl ooding. It came back that the site was actually up and running. The equipment had not been damaged, the generator just needed to be refueled to get power to it and get it back on air." As they go through the video the drones collect, Verizon employees look for tilted or cracked antennas or frayed coax cables, Schulz said. They want to know if there's any damage to the towers, if the base station equipment is fl ooded or damaged. This information helps them FLYING CELL SITES FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS, Verizon has tested ways to obtain site surveillance and aerial LTE coverage via a long endurance drone, Verizon spokesperson Karen Schulz said. While they didn't need to deploy this "fl ying cell site" after Hurricanes Harvey or Irma, it's a solution that could be useful in future disaster situations should power be knocked out indefi nitely. One of Verizon's most recent tests was completed in April. American Aerospace Technologies piloted the UAS during the test to determine how large of a wireless coverage area can be created using this method. Fixing Cell Phone Service, Railways them determine the best way to actu- ally access the lines. They primarily fl ew systems from DJI equipped with ther- mal and still cameras. "Sometimes we had access to one side of the right-of-way, but we needed an alternative approach to get the out- side materials in for the repairs," Graetz said. "There were signifi cant amounts of moving water. The drones helped us more safely move people into the ar- eas we needed to go because we knew what it looked like." While the video and images were a huge help in planning repairs, the team also put the images through software to create a volumetric analysis of how much material they needed, Graetz said. The BNSF crew traveled on airboats, often operating the drones from there. They'd take the boats as far as they could, then launch a UAS to cover the rest of the distance. Trained BNSF em- ployees and contractors who exclusively fl y with BNSF conducted the fl ights, so pilots knew exactly what kind of damage to look for. Like in many other scenarios, UAS allowed operators to get into areas that would have taken days to access otherwise, saving them a significant amount of time and getting the rail lines in service that much faster. quickly determine if they need to put up mobile towers or if they can make simple repairs to restore service. Trains are an effi cient way to bring in large amounts of supplies and material for rebuilding after a natural disaster— making it vital to get rail lines back up and running as soon as possible. BNSF turned to drones to speed up their re- pair process, using them to get a bird's eye view of the scope of the damage (without putting crew members in harm's way) so they had a better under- standing of where they needed to send resources, said Todd Graetz, BNSF di- rector of technology services. The drones not only showed them damage to the railway, such as impact- ed signals and switches, it also helped BNSF fl ew UAS to help speed up the rail line repair process after Hurricane Harvey. AFTER THE STORM

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