Helicopter Instrumental in Deploying Microwave Pole on Mountain

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TDS Telecommunications Corp. recently used a helicopter to install a microwave pole on a mountain to improve broadband coverage in Delta and Gunnison counties in western Colorado, including the town of Crawford.

The microwave facility, which was installed at an elevation of 7,424 feet on top of Youngs Peak in the West Elk Mountains, is part of the project to connect 20 microwaves installed in the two counties. The infrastructure, which will eventually serve around 3,000 locations, is funded by the FCC’s Alternative Connect America Model. 

Helicopters are becoming more popular for installing utility lines and communications poles in the construction of networks, according to Greg Fitch, TDS Network Specialist in Microwave Technologies. 

“Renting a helicopter is more efficient than spending nine months building a road to get to the top of the mountain,” said Fitch. “Using a helicopter is quick and it’s done all in one morning. During our research for this project, we found the helicopter to become the most viable solution.”

The pole was ordered and delivered last fall, but site prep and construction were limited from December 1 to April 1, due to the weather conditions and because the area is a major corridor for the migration of elk and mule deer, according to Fitch. 

“The helicopter flew the pole right up the mountain and directly into the hole,” said Fitch. “It then needed to be compacted and plumbed and then the project was done.”

Helicopters are being used in environmentally sensitive areas because they eliminate the need to drive heavy equipment into these areas that will eventually require restoration. A helicopter can airlift workers and equipment right to the site.

The microwave pole will have an 80-year lifespan. “It’s extremely wind and weather resistant. it doesn’t rot because it’s fiberglass and located on a very resilient platform,” Fitch added.

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