The drone thing keeps coming back to this blog like a bad penny… Well, not really a bad penny as in “that sucks” bad. In this case it’s more like baaaad. As in dope, tight, righteous, Michael-Jackson-shamone bad. And again Fluke Networks is front and center on this drone-related discussion, like they were a few months ago.
Some background: those radio station and cell towers that dot the American landscape are marvelous pieces of communications infrastructure. But they also have a way of ruining lives when gravity meets carelessness or equipment failure. Despite the dangers, every tower is an ecosystem unto itself that needs upkeep, inspection, hardware and frequency inventory, and the occasional changing of mounted equipment. Though human beings will always be needed at tower sites, Fluke Networks sees a better way to take care of many of the tasks that climbers would otherwise need to do.
Enter the drone.
No, Fluke Networks is not coming out with a drone (but if they did, it would no doubt be kick-ass). But everyone’s favorite wireless toolmaker is taking their Wireless Work Advisor to the air with a coming-soon drone version as mentioned at the OSP Expo earlier this month. Think lightweight Windows tablet doing frequency verification with AirMagnet Spectrum ES as payload on a decent-quality drone that loiters around a tower, taking high resolution photos and video (inspection, inventory).
Rather than sending a tech up the tower for every little task, Wireless Work Advisor Drone promises to handle a variety of chores. I don’t do a lot of tower work except on the occasional ham radio project, but I’ve been high enough off the ground on tall metal sticks to know that less time spent “up there” is better. Drones can’t mount antennas or hook up cables, but there’s potentially an awful lot they can do if the uses of Wireless Work Advisor and Spectrum ES are incorporated properly. This is one of those good ideas that military mission planners call a “force multiplier”.
And sure, this has little to do with Wi-Fi and this is a mostly Wi-Fi blog. At the same time, some of us do point-to-point bridging, and/or host carrier cells on our properties. I like that Fluke Networks is taking a seemingly holistic look at the drone paradigm and seeing it for what it is in the IT/communications space- everything from a potential security threat to a handy tool that should reduce tower-related incident statistics by keeping more technicians on the ground.
I still don’t see an official release on Wireless Work Advisor Drone yet, but have been given the all-clear to mention it so it should be out soon.
Update- also see the article on same topic running at Network Computing. Thanks for reading and commenting.