Cell phone use is ubiquitous. The Pew Research Center reported that 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone of some kind as of 2018. So, naturally, communication towers are needed to provide signals for the phones.
Towers require maintenance and repairs from time to time. Climbing communications towers is a dangerous job. Allstate Tower is always looking for ways to make work safer for its employees. The company also continuously seeks ways to serve its customers better. So, the launch of Allstate’s drone program was the perfect marriage of those two goals.
The drones can help pinpoint where repairs and maintenance are needed by flying around the tower and recording images. Drones offer incredible visuals. They are also incredibly practical and provide a safer, quicker, and cheaper alternative to physically climbing a communication tower.
People risk their safety each time they climb a tower. Falling or being electrocuted are real occupational hazards for communication tower climbers. There were six communication tower-related fatalities in the United States in 2016, according to OSHA. There were 12 fatalities at communication tower worksites in 2014 and 13 in 2013.
Using drones can reduce the number of fatalities and injury risks since the pilot’s feet remain firmly on the ground.
Towers that lack step pegs or monopoles without safety climbs are prime candidates for drone use because they are unsafe for climbers. Completing inspections on these kinds of towers require a man lift or a crane-supported man basket. That can get expensive for customers, especially with liability insurance factored into the price. A drone can perform the same job at half the cost.
Windstorms and hurricanes damage towers, making them risky to climb. Without endangering climbers, drones can be sent to inspect a damaged tower and see if repairs are possible.
Birds tend to build nests in elevated areas like a communication tower. The fowl can pose a danger to climbers and vice versa. Using a drone is much less likely to upset birds, making it safer for both people and animals.
Aside from being a safer alternative to climbing, using drones is also faster. Inspections carried out by drones may take mere hours, while inspections completed by a person may take up to a week or more.
Commercial drones aren’t toys to be tinkered with – they are highly sophisticated machines. They aren’t priced like toys either. Allstate has quotes for commercial drones ranging from $19,000 to $29,000, with the cameras alone costing $8,000.
Part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s requirements for flying a drone is that the operator must be licensed. Registering the drone with the FAA is a requirement; so is obtaining aviation insurance coverage.
Allstate has two licensed pilots who obtained a Part 107 airman certificate for small unmanned aircraft systems. Remote pilots must keep their certificate requirements readily accessible during all drone flights. The FAA requires re-certification every two years.
Allstate has already gotten tremendous use out of its new drones. Allstate intends to look at every possible avenue of use for the drones to provide the best service possible to customers.