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The transportation of antennas and accessories is difficult, time-consuming and costly, especially in impassable mountain regions. Because of this, cablex is currently testing multicopter drones that can transport loads of 80-150 kg safely and with pinpoint accuracy to the building site or building.
The pilot project, which includes several use cases, is being carried out with the Italian company FlyingBasket. The first flight took place on 14. June, 2021, in Graubünden. The remote-controlled drone "Multicopter FB3", which is equipped with an automatic cargo hook, transported radio material weighing approximately 80 kg over a ravine in Davos Wiesen, Jenisberg. The manoeuvre provided the technicians involved with a high degree of flexibility, as they could load the construction material very easily and place it at a delivery point right next to the antenna mast. The "mission" was successful according to the evaluation criteria set for it.
Multicopter drones can transport loads of 80-150 kg safely and with pinpoint accuracy.
We participated in the first pilot flight and captured some impressions and voices from everyone involved:
cablex already plays a leading role in the area of high-performance ICT and network infrastructure solutions as well as in the planning and implementation of promising smart infrastructure projects. In order to expand our leading position, we are interested in testing new technologies and developments and incorporating them into our work processes.
Quote from Martin Müller, Head Portfolio & Business Steering at cablex: "FlyingBasket is a manufacturer of cargo drones with great experience in the transportation of loads of up to 100 kg. They have already completed a large number of successful drone missions in various countries and have proven their professionalism. We are expecting a lot from drone technology and are READY for the future!"
cablex works in a price-sensitive area. Especially in remote areas where the population density is low, the fixed costs for optimising wireless networks are much higher. The integration of cost-effective and sustainable methods is crucial for cablex when it comes to achieving a competitive advantage, among other things.
At the moment, a helicopter is often used to transport antenna accessories in mountainous areas, or our technicians transport the heavy material to the antenna site piece by piece. In other areas, cranes are needed to enable transportation through narrow structures or for installation work on a mast positioned on the roof of a building.
These are areas of application that could also be taken over by cargo drones in the future. Transportation by drone can be organised in a relatively short period of time. At the moment, however, a current permit from the FOCA (Federal Office of Civil Aviation) must still be obtained in each case. Resources in the wireless team can be used elsewhere and the heavy loads no longer have to be manoeuvred by people.
Initial calculations show that drones can be used very economically and in an environmentally friendly way. However, points such as handling, permits, weather conditions or safety aspects must also be included in the overall assessment.
Moritz Moroder, CEO Flying Basket, on the pilot tests: "We appreciate the courage and willingness of cablex when it comes to challenging the status quo and testing an innovative solution, which can be used in the future as part of the company's daily activities."
The pilot phase will continue throughout this year. First of all, another drone will transport radio material onto a building. In autumn, plans are in place to transport material directly to the technicians on the antenna. This experiment is extremely interesting for us, because it could simplify the heavy manual transport of antenna accessories to the mast by our network electricians or replace the helicopter/crane with a drone.
Following the pilot tests, we will evaluate all of the findings and then decide how to deal with the utilisation of cargo drones in the future, in the wireless sector as well as for other areas of application within the company. The commitment of cablex for the future will stay strong, and we will continue to monitor with great curiosity various new technologies that could possibly be implemented in our business areas.