New Jersey Innovation Institute and Maser Consulting P.A. conduct UAS video inspections of cell towers in Houston following Hurricane Harvey



In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) Defense and Homeland Security Innovation Lab and Maser Consulting P.A. are working together to conduct video inspections of cell towers in Houston, Texas using UAS.

Wireless communications play an integral role in organizing rescue and recovery efforts in Houston for civil command and control operations, as well as for neighbors and concerned citizens who helped rescue residents from flooded homes.

“We have teamed with Maser Consulting to have two crews on site in Houston to conduct video inspections for several major telecommunications companies,” says NJII’s Assistant Vice President, Government Affairs, Defense and Homeland Security, Retired General Bill Marshall.

“We worked closely with Maser to secure the UAV pilots, create the inspection schedule and are actively monitoring progress, which so far has been excellent.” 

NJII says that maintaining telecommunication infrastructure during and after hurricane Harvey is “essential to the communications of emergency personnel and the peace of mind of people within the affected area.”

With this in mind, UAS crews have used the technology to perform initial site assessments to find out the level of accessibility to cell towers. These initial site assessments allow telecommunication companies to assign repair crews to the areas where the most impact can be made.

The UAS crews can also perform “advanced data acquisition” to evaluate the condition of the cell tower site “with up-to-date information to streamline repair activities.”

After repairs have been made, UAS crews can return to the site, and examine the quality of repairs to give telecommunication clients confidence that their equipment is working at an ideal level.

With a commitment to safety during each operation, the UAS crews are especially beneficial in areas that are damaged, as they can perform video inspections to assess a number of different things, such as whether or not repair crews can safely access the cell site; if the flooding would prevent the repair crews from reaching the towers; and/or the condition of ground-level generators—which power the towers—that may be submerged in floodwaters.

Not only do these video inspections identify tower condition, but they also help determine whether or not more detailed follow-up inspections are necessary.