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Positioning sensors and geospatial intelligence advance in the 5G landscape

May 13, 2019  - By

Taming a brave new world


Tony Agresta, Executive Vice President, Products

Tony Agresta

Tony Agresta

We’ve all been there before: static on our wireless call or, worse, the call drops at the most inopportune time. Like instant response when we surf the web, consumers have come to expect clear, consistent call connections when using mobile. With too much of a bad thing, the churn risk soars to untenable heights.

5G, shorthand for Fifth-Generation Wireless Systems, holds the promise of transforming our daily lives. Using massive bandwidth, extremely low latency and high speeds, almost everything that requires sending and receiving data gets a boost. Unique radio frequencies transmitted with precise directions improve on the older 4G approach by taking advantage of higher frequencies. The signals take less time to transfer from one device to another, dramatically reducing wait times.

How does this help business and the consumer? Video conferencing is better, call connections are clearer, and smart homes get their Ph.D. How does this become reality?

Rather than using satellite-based towers, 5G depends on shorter signals using antennas and other transmission devices installed closer to the ground, on the tops of buildings and existing utility poles. Herein lies the rub. Ground features such as trees or tall structures can interfere with transmission. On top of this, there’s the need to plan for change. Vegetation grows over time, new construction takes place, and the cycle of interference continues. Imagine trying to plan a 5G network in an urban environment replete with hundreds or thousands of tall buildings. How would a telecom decide where to place the hardware and optimize the network?

The answer rests in aerial imagery, also known as aerial mapping. Rather than relying on satellite imagery that’s less clear and prone to atmospheric conditions, high-resolution camera systems mounted inside planes are photographing the world — all in 3D. Within predefined coverage areas, every point on and above the ground is being photographed and transformed into a variety of 3D models. For the telecom industry, planners can predict zones of interference and place hardware accordingly. They can better service their customers and quickly adapt to changing conditions in support of maintaining the network.

One type of output from these advanced camera systems is called a digital surface model, providing detailed elevation profiles of ground features, building, bridges, you name it. Also knows as DSM, the elevation detail contained within the imagery facilitates analysis to optimize the placement of 5G antennas and transmission devices.

When combined with other forms of imagery that allow users to clearly visualize every aspect of the landscape in photorealistic, immersive 3D, this enables telecoms to quickly model all the transmission permutations.

These high-tech companies use machine learning to identify clear signal areas and sections of the landscape where a tree, for example, may degrade the 5G radio frequency. Armed with such intelligence, strategic placement of hardware unlocks the optimized network — all without having to leave the office to collect data from the field.

The race is on to roll out 5G. Fortunately, advances in aerial photography have been combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up network planning and change modification. With tens of thousands of access points needed for large cities, advanced uses of aerial imagery and data science provide the answer for fast 5G deployment.

Lidar USA

Jeff Fagerman, Chief Executive Officer

Jeff Fagerman

Jeff Fagerman


Not anymore.

Less than a decade ago, mobile mapping systems were being designed and sold using computer systems that rivaled most desktop computers. Mobile mapping vehicles had to be custom-fit for large displays and computer systems, usually with large, expensive, bulky redundant arrays of inexpensive disk (RAID) storage systems that would consume the back of a van or, at the very least, the back seat of a car. Wiring for these systems completely entangled the vehicle, making it a dedicated part of the mapping system. Many of these systems are still being used today, as their utility is only lost on space consumed but not on usability or productiveness.

In 2019 we face the ever-increasing demand for smaller size with greater performance, especially in the instance of UAVs, where size, weight and power consumption are precious commodities.

Wires? Nobody wants or expects to see any wires or cabling running between devices, with the possible exception of power. A desktop computer, laptop or RAID system is no longer a consideration. Storage is replaced by high-speed, high-capacity media such as Compact Flash, Flash memory cards, and solid-state drives.

And all of those wires? They are replaced by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth working directly between the onboard microprocessor (at most the size of a deck of cards) and what else? Your cell phone. Maybe a tablet.

The inertial navigation system inside these UAVs, the central nervous system of a mobile mapping set-up, can no longer afford to weigh several kilograms. It must weigh under 1 kilogram, with less than 500 grams preferred. The accompanying antennas must also shrink.

At the same time, cost must drop while performance must be maintained or improved. More users will adopt the technology, and they will no longer be experts. Reliability and durability will be of utmost importance.