As you all know there are several solutions for tower inspections. There are several times you may want a tower inspection completed.
First, what is a tower inspection? This is quite literally when you inspect the tower. No hidden meaning here, just inspecting the tower. Now, what are you inspecting the tower for, that is the real question. The inspection could be for several reasons, so you need to know what you are looking for and then you can gauge what the inspection is for.
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Types of inspections can vary and the way you do them will also vary. You see, the scope of the inspection really matters. The scope of work will outline what you need to do but look at the deliverables for what is expected. Each one is done differently. There are many reasons for inspections but I am going to list a few here. I thought it would be a good idea to come up with a list of what you may want to inspect a tower for, then I will go over some solutions for each instance.
Types of inspections and brief explanation:
- Tower loading – this is a detailed inspection of the tower to define loading.
- Tower mapping – this is generally an inspection of what is mounted to the tower, specifically radios heads, cables, mounts, ground wires, and so on.
- Close out packages – this is generally an inspection of the equipment that has been mounted to the tower for a specific customer.
- Maintenance inspections – this may be a high level inspection but it could also be a detailed inspection looking for missing hardware and to include a loading study.
So now that you have the overview of the types of inspections, let’s look at more detail of what is involved in each one, where you would use it and possible solutions for inspections. You see not all inspections are created equal and they don’t all need the same work done.
The tower loading inspection is a very detailed inspection. If done for the first time then it would require a tower climbing crew. They would need to measure everything. Let me be more specific. They would need to measure, in detail, each cross member, each bolt, each section, and each thing mounted to the tower. They would need to research the type of tower. If requested, they may need to dig down and look at the foundation to do it properly, otherwise they would look at the building drawings and assume it was built to specifications. They may also need to understand the soil, it may require soil samples.
If being done for the second time or anytime after that they should just need to inspect the tower for everything added to it and get the specification of everything on it.
So once all the research and inspection is done, what is the deliverable? The deliverable would be CAD drawings showing the tower and everything on it with the detailed specification on it. Many times these studies will tell you if the tower was built properly, many tower companies will drill holes to make it fit and that is not right. The inspection will have more than just the drawings. It will have loading information with details as to what each section can hold. It will have wind ratings, showing what the wind loading will be for that region. It will have the base specifications show what the foundation can support. It will be stamped by the mechanical engineer, a PE that is certified to inspect tower loading and that engineer is putting his name and reputation on the line to insure that the tower will stand for the ratings specified. That is why they constantly need to clarify what they actually measures, what they did an estimation on, and what they expected to be done properly (like the foundation).
So for this type of inspection, what is the scope of work? You would need an engineer that could review all the data and certify it is correct and put a stamp on it. You would need someone to draw up the CAD drawing with all of the details on it. I know many of you would try to use Visio, but it is best to have CAD so if you need to file it with a local municipality they would work with CAD. They may just need a blueprint, but good to be prepared. You would also need a tower crew that is experienced in inspections. Depending on the tower and height it may run from $2K to $4K for the crew per tower. It all depends on the expected time to inspect the tower and if the inspection has been done before. All measurements need to be very accurate and done with care.
Tower mapping is something that you go to the tower and map all the equipment mounted to the tower. This is something that is done specifically to verify everything on the tower. Today many tower companies take care of the tower and know exactly what is on the tower. They take pride knowing exactly what is on the tower and where it is.
The deliverable could be a CAD drawing, but many people just accept Visio drawings because it is cheaper and easier to work with. They may save it as an EasyCAD file to make it simple to pass around. It would have all of the hardware on the tower, including the radio heads, antennas, dishes, cables, and mounts. It should also include specification for each item including weight, dimensions, and location of each item.
So for this inspection you could have a climber, running about $2K depending on size and scope. You could possible use a drone for this work, I don’t know the pricing but I would imagine it could be done with one person for less money and quickly. Now, no matter which way you have it done, it still takes office work. Someone has to build the drawing and put the pictures together and verify all of the data to make a deliverable to the customer. You may need to map the tower equipment to the shelter equipment which means you would need to verify each cable run. This is best done by a climber. Again, it all comes down to what the customer is requesting in the scope of work.
Close Out Packages
Close out packages are an inspection done after an installation, usually to a specific customer equipment, to make sure that the installation was done properly. They usually check the mounting, grounding, antenna position, and cable runs. There may be more depending on the scope.
The deliverable is usually a bunch of pictures along with descriptions all put in a document. I know many people use Field Dailies for this package because it makes it go quick and east.
For this most people use a tower crew, it could run from $1K to $3K per site depending on what you are asking to be done. This is work that a drone could do. I would imagine for less money and with one guy and no risk of an accident on the tower. No matter who does it, pictures still need to be put together and reports need to be completed. Carriers usually ask for a ton of pictures and if they don’t like what they see chances are you need to go back. If they ask to see pictures of the serial numbers, make sure you build time in to find them. Many times the OEMs put them on the side of the equipment mounted to the tower. If the installer does not document this, then it becomes a royal headache getting the proper information. Read your scope to understand what the deliverable will be so you don’t waste time with a second trip!
Maintenance inspections are pretty common but not very popular. This is where you go out and inspect the tower. Depending on the scope, you could be there just to eye everything up or you may be asked to look at every bolt. If you inspect a tower, and then it goes down in a storm, guess who is responsible? YOU!
So if this is something where you need to do a detailed inspection make sure you have the documentation prior to going to the site. In other words there could be equipment on the tower that the owner is not aware of. Make sure you verify what is on there should be there and if something is missing you document it.
This could be done by a tower crew, price would vary depending on the scope and deliverables. This could be done by drones, again, depending on the scope. This could also be done my Lidar. What is Lidar? Well, I will explain below.
So you now that you know more about each inspection, you could look at solutions for each. I know many people in the business and I met all of these groups.
For tower crews you probably know plenty of people that can do this job.
Mechanical engineers are usually with a preferred group for each tower owner or carrier. You already know plenty of people who do this.
For documenting the site pictures and information I know many people started using Field Dailies. I resell this service because they offer a great service. They offer SaaS, (Software as a Service), that will allow the information to be sent from the site, an iPhone or laptop or tablet directly to an online account to hold the pictures and organize them. For more information go to http://www.fielddailies.com/ and see what they have. Remember to let them know that you were referred by Wade of Wade4Wireless if you’re interested!
For the out of the box solutions you could go with one of the following. I know these guys so you can go with whomever you wish.
- Drones – to save money and put fewer people at risk drones are a great solution. I know Phil Larsen, email@example.com, of Hazon Solutions if you need a professional drone team. This company is run by pilots and I spoke to them, really nice guys. Now when I say pilots, these guys take flying very seriously. They fly real planes even to this day. Go to the website and read about David Culler who is a decorated pilot for the Navy, now retired, and still flies to this day. I got to talk to David awhile back and he is really an interesting guy. Here is one thing that I learned that pilots do, they analyze everything about the mission before and after. If something goes wrong they go over it again and again until they know and understand what happened, which is something that should be done in the tower industry. http://www.hazonsolutions.com/
- Drones – to be fair there are other professional drone companies you can use. Both Sentera, (http://sentera.com/) and Prairie Aerial, (http://prairieaerial.com/) are other drone companies that could help you do any of this.
- Lidar – I met Mike Windham, firstname.lastname@example.org, from a company called New Spin, www.newspin.com who specializes in 3D photography at tower sites. They will go around to tower sites and take 360 degree photos of sites but the cool thing that they do is Lidar. Lidar is something that will take a 3D picture of the tower and catch every nut and bolt, specify distances of each piece on the tower, and show great detail. It is a very detail picture where they use a type of radar to get all the details. For tower pictures go to https://youcontrol.newspin.com/asset/216/show/pointcloud/#/58/Scenes to see what I mean. This is something that utilities have used because they can’t take power down for an inspection unless absolutely necessary. To see the utility picture go to https://youcontrol.newspin.com/asset/365/show/pointcloud/#/175/Scenes and see what they have. For all the examples go to https://newspin.squarespace.com/examples/ and see what they have. It goes way beyond communications. From Google: Lidar(also written LIDAR, LiDAR or LADAR) is a remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. Although thought by some to be an acronym of Light Detection And Ranging, the term lidar was actually created as a portmanteau of “light” and “radar”.
Interested? Tell me and I will add you to my email list for more information.