Leveraging Lidar Technology in Telecommunications Construction (2023)

By Camille Westlake, NV5 Geospatial Inc.; Steve Lucente, NV5 Geospatial Inc.; Dan Wagner, NV5 Geospatial Inc.; Arley Oddo, NV5 Geospatial Inc.; Conrad Hilley, NV5 Geospatial Inc.; Chris Andersen, NV5 Geospatial Inc.

The telecommunications industry is experiencing rapid growth and technological advancements with higher demand for data. The 5G rollout is driving that growth and the demand is putting pressure to build the infrastructure. 5G can use existing 4G/3G cell sites but has a lower cell radius of 100m, which means it will require the deployment of many more cell sites. The best locations for these existing cell sites are on existing infrastructure such as utility poles or buildings. Utility poles are ideal locations because the 5G cell sites use more energy (around 11.5 kW vs. 6.8 kW of 4G) and need a backhaul network (i.e., fiber connection). The struggle is working within the utility industry regulations to get additional fiber and antennas placed in a timeline needed for the 5G rollout. Telecommunication companies are finding their applications to deploy cell sites taking much longer than the shot clock governance of 90 days for reviewing the application. Some have reported that seventy percent (70%) of their applications have exceeded the 90-day shot clock and forty-seven percent (47%) have exceeded 150 days. Utilities want reassurance that the pole passes the make-ready assessment and can support the added infrastructure 5G needs. The traditional boots-on-the-ground method of measuring attachment points is time-consuming and cannot keep up with the needs of the 5G rollout. An alternative solution is a Mobile Mapper Unit which consists of a mobile lidar (light detection and ranging) system and a spherical camera. The lidar unit scans the pole and wires generating 3D point cloud data that can be analyzed by computer algorithms to extract the attachment locations on the pole, while image recognition can be applied to the spherical imagery to identify smaller equipment and pole tags. Many telecommunication companies have large fiber densification projects in the largest cities. As a result of these projects, they will need to attach fiber cables to millions of electric utility poles. This will more than double the number of new attachments that would normally go on a pole. Time is of the essence for these projects and utilizing the normal utility attachment/inspection process will not meet the required timelines. However, utilities need to ensure that their facilities are being managed correctly and that all rules and regulations are being followed when it comes to pole attachments. Telecommunication companies and utilities are looking for ways to meet their timelines, while still achieving regulatory and safety compliance. A large utility company, referred to as Utility, approached NV5 Geospatial (NV5G) to collaborate on investigating whether remote sensing can be utilized to: • Shorten the asset attachment inspection timeline; • Ensure that the Utility is capturing the information necessary to determine if telecommunication companies can attach to its poles while still adhering to government regulations (e.g. National Electric Safety Code (NESC) clearances), and; • Create as-built records of change after construction. Through this project, an accurate, efficient, and cost-effective remote sensing-based methodology was developed that produced an average ninety-four percent (94%) match with in-situ measurements and allowed for 40 miles of pole lines to be collected in a day. This white paper presents an overview of the remote sensing methodologies developed and a comparative quantitative analysis of conventional survey methods vs. a remote sensing based option.

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