Reliance Jio has started using drones for telecom tower surveillance and plans to use drone technology for the rollout of 5G network deployment in the coming months. The country’s top telecom operator is currently a pilot in partnership with drone maker Asteria Aerospace.
Notably, Jio’s parent company Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), owns a majority stake in Asteria Aerospace. RIL had in 2019 bought a 51.78% stake in the drone maker for $3.3 million with plans to invest an additional Rs 125 crore to increase its holding to 87.3%.
Under the trial, Jio and Asteria are testing the use case for tower maintenance using drones to save time and bring cost efficiencies. Additionally, drones will also check the health of towers and equipment deployed on top.
“With the number of towers in the country poised to double over the next few years, digitalising tower surveillance will play a crucial role,” Neel Mehta, director & co-founder, Asteria Aerospace was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.
Mehta said that the use of drones would allow companies to reduce the time to survey sites by almost 30-40%.
“….while drones won’t cost less than sending a human up a tower, the value derived would be nearly 30% higher,” he said.
The executive added that once scaled up and fine-tuned, the drone service will be offered to other telcos and tower infrastructure companies. “You can use them even before a tower is set up to survey the potential site for erecting a tower…they are also being used to check for damages, and even optimise tower usage to maximise monetisation.”
The report said that Jio intends to optimise synergies within the umbrella of companies it has invested in to develop new products and services that its 5G network will power.
Jio previously conducted connected drone trials on its locally developed 5G network to execute various industrial and enterprise use cases. The trial involved precision command and control of drones over 5G using a fleet management system running in the Cloud to perform tasks such as image recognition, track-and-trace, discrete payload pickup and delivery, drone route sorties, video imagery and real-time drone control, among other applications.
Asteria Aerospace recently launched its end-to-end drone operations platform – SkyDeck, a cloud-based software platform that powers its Drone-as-a-service (DaaS). It aims to tap multiple industry verticals such as agriculture, surveying, industrial inspections, and surveillance and security with its latest service.
Incorporated in India in June 2011, Asteria claims to have in-house hardware design, software development, and manufacturing capabilities.
RIL had also acquired an 83% stake in simulation software company SankhyaSutra Labs, which also develops simulation software for drones. SankhyaSutra developed some simulations that Asteria Aerospace ran while developing its tower upkeep service through drones, the report added.