Drones are proving their utility for operators in wake of Hurricane Matthew.
U.S. wireless carrier Verizon on Friday said it is making use of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to inspect tower sites in North Carolina and South Carolina that have been impacted by severe flooding from the recent storm.
Verizon said its drone of choice is a quadcopter operated by Measure UAS Inc. According to Verizon, the drone is able to both record and livestream HD video and photographs directly from the cell sites it’s inspecting.
The carrier said the UAVs are helping it get a glimpse into conditions at difficult-to-reach locations so they can move faster to restore service and repair damaged equipment.
“While we were able to access most sites quickly to assess damage, some sites were not accessible to us due to extreme flooding,” Verizon Chief Network Officer Nicki Palmer said. “We are very pleased that we now have this new tool to add to our already extensive list of preparatory and recovery efforts to help inspect our network assets and expedite recovery time.”
In one of its first flights (seen in the video above), Verizon said the drone inspected a down cell site near Elm City, N.C. that was surrounded by flood waters from the Tar River Reservoir. The flight, Verizon said, helped show engineers that the site did not suffer visible damage from the flood waters thanks to its elevation on stilts.
The drone, however, did show that the flaps of the site’s generator exhaust pipe were not moving, showing engineers that the generator wasn’t running. Thanks the drone, Verizon’s team knew the site was safe to approach via an air boat, and they were able to refuel the generator to put the site back in service within hours.
According to a Verizon spokeswoman, the carrier was planning to fly additional drone missions over the weekend, as flooding in the Carolinas was expected to peak at that time.
The move to use drones comes follows Verizon’s drone trials for cell site inspections earlier this year and just one week after the carrier announced successful trials of Airborne LTE.
But Verizon isn’t the only one using drones.
AT&T this summer announced its drone tower inspection program, as well as plans to use drones as flying cell sites in disaster situations.