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Openreach Build New Drone Training Area to Help FTTP Rollout

Monday, July 27th, 2020 (3:47 pm) - Score 5,782
openreach_aerial_drone_carrying_fibre_optic

After a number of successful trials it looks like Openreach (BT) will soon begin training up a whole new team of qualified drone pilots to help deploy their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based gigabit broadband ISP network to even more UK homes and businesses, such as those that exist in particularly difficult to reach locations.

At present the operator only has a small group of engineers who’ve already been professionally trained and certified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly drones commercially. Since 2017 we’ve seen these deployed in a number of remote rural communities to help reach areas where traditional vehicles would struggle (e.g. over rivers, canals, valleys and railway lines etc.) – see here, here and here.

NOTE: Past trials used the DJI Mavic Pro (costs c.£850+), which weighs 750g and has a flight time of 27 minutes per battery (max payload of 1.5lbs). But better kit now exists.

Clearly Openreach sees this as becoming a field that will soon be more important, otherwise they wouldn’t be delaying their plans to build a new mock training street for engineers (among other things) and instead prioritising the construction of a new Drone Training Area (DTA). As part of this the Suffolk County Council (SCC) has just granted planning permission to redevelop a four-acre site near Brightwell.

Andy Whale, Chief Engineer at Openreach, said:

“Our Brightwell site is currently used for some of the UK’s leading testing of network developments. But we want to widen this out and make it a real focal point for everything that Openreach does around innovation and collaboration. We see it as somewhere can get together as a business to work on new things, test future products, join forces with our suppliers to try out ideas, and even involve the local community so they feel an important part of our work.

Central to the plan is a drone training area, which will be a first for Openreach, and critical to making sure our drone operators get the training and skills needed to do this increasingly important role. Using drones to build the network is something fairly new to our Chief Engineer team, but a really useful option when we’re faced with hostile terrain or a difficult area to cover. They always create a buzz of excitement when we use them, even amongst experienced engineers, and I’m sure we’re going to see them used lots more in the future.”

End.

Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar joe says:

    Clearly failing to utilise the skills of the 100s of 1000s of teenage boys in their bedroom on their consoles 😉

    1. Avatar Gary says:

      I dont think the drones are to replace draw ropes.

    2. Avatar Queenbee says:

      Girls play games too Joe…

      Albeit mostly mind games

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