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Cyndi Smith
Cyndi Smith
Cyndi Smith is a senior industry marketing director for Bentley Systems’ utilities, water, and communications industries. In her 16 years at Bentley, Smith has also led Bentley’s product marketing team and the global utilities solutions strategy as solution executive. She has an extensive … More »

Communications Organizations Capitalize on ContextCapture to Reduce Costs and Safety Risks of Tower Inspections

December 11th, 2017 by Cyndi Smith

Communications tower inspections typically require the site to be shut down and the tower climbed by an expert rigging team. If the tower is non-climbable, an elevated work platform must be used to allow close-up inspection of the antennas and equipment. Capturing imagery and other information with drones enables significant cost savings, eliminates health and safety risks of tower climbs, and reduces the time required to assess tower conditions. The 2017 Be Inspired Awards submissions included several compelling examples of the use of reality modeling for tower inspections.

SEIKEY S.r.l. is using an innovative method for inspecting the operating parameters of 11,800 radio base stations (RBS) in Italy for risk prevention, compliance, and the maintenance and development of the 3, 4, 4.5, and 5G networks. Inspections are carried out through high definition photography, LiDAR sensors, thermographic cameras, and spectrum analyzers. During the inspection phase, it is possible to view the data that the drone is acquiring in real-time through ProjectWise. Using ContextCapture, MicroStation, and Bentley Map, data is collected, processed, and managed in ProjectWise where, through Bentley Navigator, 3D visualization provides a comprehensive and realistic view of situations requiring intervention. The management of flight schedules, the collection and preparation of the necessary permits, and the management of collected and processed data posed significant challenges. ProjectWise proved to be essential for this operational management. The inspection method led to a reduction in the risk to human life and a reduction in inspection times, where previously it took five days to perform an RBS inspection, it can now be done in six hours.

Cristiano De Leonardis, CEO and founder of SEIKEY S.r.l., said, “ProjectWise made it possible to quickly coordinate among the stakeholders, providing telecommunications operators with immediate access to up-to-date information and a huge amount of data (e.g. a detailed photogrammetric reconstruction with ContextCapture takes around 1,700 40MP photos, up to 30GB of photos for each RBS, and more than 400TB of data for all the RBSs). ProjectWise provides the documentation base to support continuous asset management.”

Photo of Radio Base Station

iSpatial Global Systems, working with RBI Technical Solutions International (RBI), developed theiGlobe Tower Management System (iGTMS), a proof of concept (POC) exploring the use of unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAV), 3D reality modeling, and geographic information systems (GIS) for the maintenance and engineering of cellular towers. RBI is an engineering inspection company with offices across South Africa that performs risk-based inspections for a broad range of industries. The project goals included reducing the time from inspection to a workable 3D model on the engineer’s desktop and, of course, drastic reduction of the need for tower climbs.

ProjectWise played a key role for the distributed teams in managing content and workflows from the information collected in the field right to final reports. All reports and inspections are linked to the geospatial information in Bentley Map as well as the spatial folders in ProjectWise. Bentley’s ContextCapture was used to generate rich reality meshes shared through the iGTMS portal. Bentley Map was used as the foundation of the underlying spatial content bringing together WMS layers from providers like TomTom and Google. The POC confirmed that reality modeling can enable the maintenance, engineering, and planning teams to make decisions based on common information and that planning in the office is now much more accurate, ensuring the correct technology and crews are sent to the site for any subsequent work.

Thermal analysis of Radio Base Station

Eye-bot Aerial Solutions produces 3D engineering ready meshes of structures, such as the monopole cell tower in Springdale, Pennsylvania, using ContextCapture. Modeling vertical structures with UAV photogrammetry is extremely difficult when the structure has complex cross bracing that can be seen through. Eye-bot relies on the unique capability of ContextCapture to use photogrammetry and UAV laser scanning to consistently generate accurate models of such complex towers. Lease holders take advantage of the model for remote inspection rather than each company sending a team to inspect their equipment, reducing work in a far safer environment than the traditional method of climbing towers. The models can be used to check for structural deformities that may have been caused by excessive stress and the surface area of components can be measured for wind and ice load calculations, allowing for well-informed decisions that no longer rely solely on the person climbing the tower.

Jake Lydick, founder and CEO of Eye-bot Aerial Solutions, said reality modeling with ContextCapture allows his team to “Deliver a vast and complete, verified accurate, up-to-date record of the current state and position of the client’s tangible assets contained in an easily consumable source.”

Antenna identification using reality model of Telstra mobile tower

SiteSee used ContextCapture to create reality meshes for as-built auditing and analysis of a Telstra telecommunications tower in Brisbane, Australia and reported a reduction in asset inspection and maintenance costs of 69 percent along with a reduction in project delivery lead time of 86 percent. ContextCapture enabled SiteSee to export a dense point cloud for further analysis in their web-based application for remote site inspection to support automated corrosion detection and antenna identification with model, height, azimuth, and mechanical tilt, as well as preliminary radiation hazard EME simulation within the 3D reality mesh scene. Since Bentley’s ContextCapture supports Cesium 3D Tiles, SiteSee developed the web application based on Cesium tiles. SiteSee’s 3DTile viewer enables users from field teams, engineering, health and safety, real estate, and asset management to remotely view and analyze assets and run reports. The reality mesh can also be linked to the user’s internal asset management system to align records with the data extracted from the reality mesh, bridging the gap between reality and the database of record.


Caption: Antenna identification using reality model of Telstra mobile tower

Image Courtesy of SiteSee (SiteSee, Automated Recognition of Antennas on a Cell Tower, Brisbane, Australia)


Caption: Thermal analysis of Radio Base Station

Image Courtesy of SEIKEY S.r.l. (SEIKEY S.r.l., SEIKEY Inspection of Radio Base Stations, Caronno Pertusella, Italy)


Caption: Photo of Radio Base Station

Image Courtesy of SEIKEY S.r.l. (SEIKEY S.r.l., SEIKEY Inspection of Radio Base Stations, Caronno Pertusella, Italy)

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