Drones Can Help Speed Cell Site Deployment

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Self-flying drones built by a Missoula, MT company can play a critical role in building out America’s high-speed cellular network technology, according to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. He visited drone maker Skyfish last week and spoke about how drones can service critical infrastructure like cell tower sites, according to the Missoulian.

One of the company’s major customers uses Skyfish drones to inspect cell towers for maintenance issues; that can cut the number of tower climbs needed.

The county is in the midst of a shift from 4G wireless technology, to 5G. However, the U.S. has only between 200,000 and 300,000 cell sites right now, and about 100 times that figure are needed, according to Carr.

“So we’ve been acting at the federal level to make it easier to create new cell sites,” said Carr. “You can now place them on utility poles and we’ve done other reforms to speed the buildout of infrastructure. And so we look at the drone space as part and parcel of how do we get this new infrastructure built and maintained?”

The agency has been updating regulations to speed cell site deployments, “which can create more work opportunities for companies,” he said. “In 2017 for instance, there was 13,000 new small cells put up. And through some reforms that we’ve done, that number jumped in 2018, to over 60,000. So there’s a lot more antenna sites and cell sites out there that are going to need some of the work here.”

Skyfish was founded in 2014, by current CEO Orest Pilskalns and has 12 employees. The company has a few dozen drones in operation, but Pilskalns said it intends to get to 30 employees within the next year or two and have hundreds of drones in operation, reported the Missoulian.

June 3, 2019

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