Telstra has put drones into use across Tasmania to assist with asset inspections and site assessments, in the hope they will improve safety for workers and reduce network downtime.
The telco has been trialling the use of drones for these purposes in Queensland and New South Wales for the last year. Telstra has 9000 mobile network sites around Australia covering 2.4 million square kilometres.
It is now putting the machines into official use in Tasmania, where one of its technicians has completed training to become a CASA-certified Telstra drone pilot technician.
"Drones will now be used in Tasmania to better assess the suitability of new sites for infrastructure, improve safety for local employees and improve repair times in the event of extreme weather or natural disasters," Telstra said in a blog post.
"Previously technicians had to climb towers or bring in cherry pickers which takes time, particularly in regional areas where land may be uneven or muddy.
"Drones now mean this work can be done more safely and easily and, in the event new parts and equipment need to be ordered, this can be done immediately from the ground."
Drones will also allow Telstra to respond faster in the aftermath of disasters that impact its infrastructure; the devices were used to inspect mobile base stations for damage in Wye River in Victoria in the late 2015 bushfires.
The Queensland and NSW trials tested GoPro-fitted 3D Robotics Solo drones that can fly up to 120 metres high to inspect Telstra's base stations.
Drones have become a popular method of asset inspection for infrastructure operators in recent years. Melbourne Water and Aurizon are just two examples of many to have deployed the machines to monitor remote and difficult-to-access infrastructure assets.