Radwin, a small cell company, has taken an unusual approach to test new locations for its wireless equipment. The company has developed a drone with the same beam-forming antennas used in its small cells, allowing wireless carriers to survey potential small-cell locations that might be difficult for engineers to reach.
Radwin developed the drone as wireless carriers are installing small cells and distributed antenna systems to meet the huge demand for wireless service in cities and crowded residential areas. These smaller access points are being linked together in patchwork quilts of wireless coverage, also known as heterogeneous networks.
The growing market for small cells has spurred new approaches to surveying cell sites. Last year, PreNav developed drones that could make the exacting maneuvers necessary to inspect tall structures like cell towers and wind turbines. The aim was for technicians to inspect for damages before they climb up to perform maintenance.
Radwin’s drone enables wireless carriers to quickly inspect new locations — rooftops and street lights, for two examples. Using the beam-forming antennas, engineers can assess the strength of a small cell’s connection to the core network. The drone scans in all directions to determine whether the site suffers from any unwanted interference.
These remote tests are possible because the drone carries the same beam-forming antennas used in Radwin’s backhaul, point-to-point, and point-to-multipoint products. The company says that the highly directional nature of the antenna beams help reduce interference. The beams can operate in unlicensed spectrum and beyond line-of-sight.