Samsung trials drone-based 5G network inspection service

Samsung will later update the solution to allow field engineers to adjust the antennas of base stations from their smartphones on the ground.

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The drone-based inspection service will allow operators to adjust antennas of their 5G base stations, Samsung says. 

Image: Samsung Electronics

Samsung Electronics has demonstrated a new drone-based, antenna configuration measurement solution that allows engineers to inspect 5G base stations remotely, the South Korean tech giant said on Monday.

The solution allows engineers to use a smartphone to remotely control camera-equipped drones. 

The drone captures photos of antennas on rooftops or base station towers, which are viewable from the smartphone and sent to the cloud, Samsung said. 

A deep learning, artificial intelligence (AI) solution then verifies the rotation and tilt of the antennas, allowing engineers to determine whether the antennas have been installed correctly at predefined optimal angles. 

The automated solution will give operators a more efficient way to manage cell cites, improve worker safety, and optimise network performance, Samsung said.

In the demonstration at the company's campus, the whole process took 15 minutes starting from when the drone took flight. In addition, photos and analysis data could be viewed on the engineer's smartphone in less than a minute, the company said.

According to Samsung, this method is far more convenient compared to the several hours it would take for an engineer to prepare and go up and down towers to measure antenna configurations. 

The drone will also increase worker safety as engineers typically need to carry heavy equipment and climb up to high latitude cell sites. This will be especially helpful in the US where companies usually require two personnel to be dispatched to audit and adjust antenna angles.

The solution will launch globally later this year.

The South Korean tech giant also said it would continue to update the solution -- it will add additional features that allow engineers to remotely adjust the antenna tilts from their mobile devices or PCs, instead of having to climb up to them.

"As the number of 5G network sites grows, there has been a heightened focus on network performance by operators, and we are seeing an increased market demand for intelligent solutions for site maintenance," said Sohyong Chong, vice president and head of network automation, networks business at Samsung Electronics, in a statement. 

Samsung has previously said it is aiming to own a 20% market share for telecom equipment by 2020.

Last week, the conglomerate said it won a 5G supply equipment deal with Canadia telco Telus, which is the second such deal for Samsung in the country.

In March, it also won its first supply deal in New Zealand for Spark's 5G network.

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