Site Inspections at Breakneck Speed, Without the Risks
UK AirComms was founded as a drone photography business to eliminate the need for expensive cherry picker equipment and dangerous tower-climbing for inspections at cell phone towers in the United Kingdom. The company combined panoramic photos from the air with 360-degree photography at the ground level to help telecommunications companies conduct surveys and confirm the condition of key infrastructure assets.
UK AirComms’ services help its telecoms clients avoid multi-skilled visit (MSV) travel for a team of four to five specialized personnel, including radio planners, electricians, engineers, and acquisitions staff. With UK AirComms services, clients can instead schedule online, remote
multi-skilled visits (RMSVs) for its staff with immersive, 3D digital twins of infrastructure sites.
As the transition to 5G accelerated, UK AirComms strained to scale its operations to meet demand from clients like INS, with whom it partners to serve Vodafone. “Some of the laser scanners we used for 3D interactive modeling were expensive and heavy, plus the processing time was too slow,” says Mike Kitchen, Technical Director at UK AirComms. Mike explored new technology solutions to help its partners design cell site upgrades faster.
Boosting Business Trajectories with Cost-Effective, Portable Digital Twin Capture
Matterport Pro2 3D cameras and the Matterport for iPhone app changed the economics for UK AirComms. Whereas the company’s field team used to be able to capture approximately 300 sites per year, today it’s on track to capture images from 3,000 sites. “With smaller, more portable 3D cameras and iPhones that can rapidly capture digital twins, we’ve gained an economical, scalable solution that has transformed our business and positioned it to grow ten-fold,” says Kitchen.
The Matterport Pro 2 is optimized for indoor scans, such as the support cabins housing equipment next to cell towers. “We always go to the Pro 2 if it’s overcast or indoors because it’s such a high-resolution capture with excellent accuracy," Kitchen says.
The company uses iPhone cameras equipped with the Matterport for iPhone app when it needs to capture sites outdoors in sunny conditions. “We knew straight away that the iPhone 12 Pro with LiDAR would be advantageous for our operations, particularly on blue sky days,” says Kitchen. “Matterport for iPhone does a great job and it’s extremely convenient to use the iPhone you already have on hand.”
Powerful Capabilities Enhance Client Value
UK AirComms appreciates Matterport’s measuring capabilities, which inform the development of accurate diagrams and designs. “It saves a lot of time to use the measurement tool from the Matterport digital twin, whether that’s the width of an electronics cabinet, the height of a shelf, or the length of cables,” says Kitchen.
The high-resolution imagery of the digital twins allows UK AirComms to capture even small lettering on labels affixed to equipment at each site—from switches to power amplifiers and transmitters—to help clients maintain up-to-date asset inventory records. The scans also document the condition of key site elements, which is particularly useful when there are issues such as a leaking air conditioner, damage to floors or ceilings, a door that’s been tampered with, or problems with safety signage or ladders.
The company appreciates the convenience of Mattertags and Notes to embed key information, such as inspection due dates or planned refresh dates for equipment at the site. “These capabilities are very important and we see clients increasingly realizing the value of having so much highly detailed visual and key spec information all together in the Matterport digital twin, just a hover or click away,” Kitchen says.
Travel expenses and scheduling complexity are reduced enormously since typically just one UK AirComms field staff member needs to visit a site to capture a digital twin for a telecom client’s RMSV. The staffer will upload the scan before departing the inspection site, enabling office-based colleagues to carry the process forward and rapidly share a portal link with the company’s clients for viewing. “Now our clients can complete ten remote MSVs per day, whereas in the past they could only handle one to two in-person visits,” says Kitchen.
“Previously up to five specialists would have to travel to the site, then follow up with paper documents or emails to hammer out the documentation,” says Kitchen. Timelines were often extended further when re-visits to the site were needed to gather additional information. “With our current online process, including digital twins and Matterport technology that allows us to measure and create designs from the capture data, we’ve reduced turnaround times from capture to design delivery by 70%,” he says.
Looking ahead, UK AirComms anticipates steady, recurring business from clients that want digital twin-powered inspections so that they can be more efficient with annual maintenance schedules. “The cost of our ongoing, proactive inspection services compares very favorably to the urgent remediation expenses telecoms companies can face if they haven’t inspected a cell tower site in several years,” Kitchen says.
ABOUT UK AIRCOMMS
UK AirComms is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) service provider for surveys, digital twins, and inspections in the telecommunications and construction industries.
Sheffield, United Kingdom
Reduce risks and costs of telecom infrastructure inspections
Matterport Pro2 3D Camera, Matterport for iPhone
Aerial drone photography and Matterport digital twins enable a safer approach that saves time and money
- Five-fold boost in time to inspect telecommunications sites with Matterport digital twins
- Enables UK AirComms to scale its business 10x with minimal equipment investments
- Reduces personnel needed for travel to inspection sites from as many as five to just one
- Shortened time from site capture to design delivery by 70%