Electronic Communications Office of Latvia (ECO), microwave equipment manufacturer SAF Tehnika JSC, and technology innovation company LMT have carried out the research project to develop a unique solution that measures the parameters of a tower-based radio link using a drone. This solution allows measurements to be made as close as possible to the data transmission antennas on the base stations and provides accurate results that cannot be obtained from taking measurements from the ground.
“Introducing innovative technological solutions based on the use of drones in daily radio frequency monitoring activities is a natural next development step, which will help us solve the challenges related to surveying hard-to-access locations, and will make our services more efficient”, said Jānis Bārda, Chairman of ECO, stating that “this project is an excellent example of how the cooperation of experts with different skills in one field leads to modern technological solutions that increase Latvia’s innovative capacity”.
As high-frequency data bands become more common, a high-quality inventory of telecommunication towers is increasingly important. However, it is difficult to make measurements for frequencies above 56 GHz while on the ground, because to get accurate results, you need to be close to the transmitter. To access the transmitters – the data antennas – specialists have so far had to climb up the base station tower, which is both time-consuming and poses additional security risks. The solution developed by ECO, SAF Tehnika, and LMT allows for precise measurements without the steps mentioned above, as the drone equipped with special software can quickly and easily collect the necessary data by flying around the base station tower, saving time and human resources.
“Quality communications are more important than ever as they are the backbone of both economic and societal processes in the 21st century. We should therefore understand that it is equally important to think about maintaining them and improving the quality of operation with the latest generation of data transmission technologies, such as the introduction of 5G and the construction of networks. This is an important factor in maximizing the acquisition and exploitation of the potential of modern technologies. We are very pleased that institutions such as ECO are aware of this and that together we can develop solutions that will help in the future to make high-quality spectrum measurements and, as a result, improve the data transmission efficiency of telecommunications towers,” says Juris Binde, President of LMT.
The main element of the radio frequency measurement solution is a drone equipped with LMT’s artificial intelligence software and SAF Tehnika’s measuring instruments adapted for installation on the drone. It carries out an audit of the broadcasting tower, determining the exact location of the antennas and the direction of their transmission. It carries up to four Spectrum Compact spectrum analyzers representing a product line of seven devices covering the 0.3-87 GHz frequency range. Thanks to artificial intelligence, by flying around the base station, the software puts the drone in front of the required antennas and takes measurements in the microwave and millimeter-wave range, thus ensuring data extraction with the least possible energy and time consumption. The prototype solution has already undergone various tests to confirm its usefulness and performance and to ensure its safe deployment in the future.
“We are honored to be involved in projects that are creating unprecedented solutions and developing skills to create complex, integrated solutions that are not possible without technological collaboration. The widespread use of drones to move microwave measuring instruments opens new opportunities in the telecommunications industry. Accurate and fast measurement is the basis for effective error prevention. This solution will save time and protect technicians from injury and even life-threatening risks. This is just the first step in the development of drone projects. The simultaneous use of multiple drones equipped with spectrum analyzers has great potential not only in telecommunications but also an integral part of ensuring our security,” says Normunds Bergs, Chairman of the Board of SAF Tehnika.
Research No.2.10 “Measurement of Radio Spectrum Parameters Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” has been implemented with the financial support of ERDF within project No.220.127.116.11/18/A/006 “Latvian Competence Centre for Electrical and Optical Equipment Manufacturing”. The project was implemented by the Electronic Communications Office of Latvia in cooperation with SAF Tehnika, with LMT Ltd. involved in the development of the solution.