Nokia Tests Drones for Telco Network Inspections

Nokia teamed with Middle East telco Du to run a PoC showing how drones can be used for everything from optimization testing to line-of-sight work.

Nokia drone

Nokia Networks wants to show that drones can be used to help telecommunications carriers test and analyze their networks.

The vendor teamed up with Du, a telco service provider in the Middle East, in a proof-of-concept (PoC) that demonstrated that drones carrying smartphones that include network testing applications can be used to test the performance of the networks and run network optimization actions. They also were used to inspect towers and test radio planning and line-of-sight between radio towers, according to Nokia officials.

The tests are part of larger efforts by organizations worldwide to see where drones can help improve business performance and efficiencies and drive down costs. Among the most high-profile of these plans is Amazon's goal of using drones to deliver products to Amazon Prime customers. Drones also are being tested and used for everything from inspecting remote oil pipelines to monitoring emergency situations.

"Drones are becoming a common phenomenon across the world and multiple sectors are embracing the benefits drones bring such as faster deliveries in logistics or delivering emergency services in health care," Tony Awad, head of Nokia's Du customer team, said in a statement. "In the telecoms sector, certain operators have already embraced the use of drones for telecom tower audits. … With the use of drones, we continue to bring innovation and automation into our service delivery to make our networks even more efficient and reliable."

The PoC was conducted at the Dubai International Stadium in Dubai Sports City, a 25,000-seat facility where the drones collected network data and offered performance indicators for the network. The test data was collected automatically and sent to a service for processing at Nokia's Global Delivery Center, according to officials. There, the data was analyzed to determine what actions needed to be taken to improve performance.

There are advantages to using drones instead of people for such operations, Nokia officials said. Drones can cover the area that needs to be assessed more quickly than a person and can get the data back to Nokia more quickly. In addition, not only can drones reduce the number of times a person has to go up and down a tower, but also can perform the testing when weather conditions make climbing for people dangerous.

It also gives telcos a more panoramic view of the environment, and enables businesses to remotely monitor the installation or repairs, officials said.

During the PoC, Nokia worked with Dubai Sports City, Ascom Network Testing, DroneWorks FZ and Secutronic. The Ascom's TEMS Pocket software was pre-installed in the smartphones, while drones from Secutronic were used for both network optimization at the stadium and for tower inspections, line-of-sight testing and radio site planning.

Remote monitoring was done via wireless video broadcast cameras from mView Live Video, Nokia officials said.