Delmec Drones in Action: A Mast-Dismantling Project in Ghana

Until quite recently it was only birds – and some intrepid engineers – who could command the best view of our clients’ towers, but now we have specialist drones, designed to be Delmec’s eyes in the sky.

Ever since our early days of business in the 1970s, we’ve prided ourselves on growing and adapting to our clients’ needs. Whether it’s developing expert engineering skills or embracing new technology, we will always work towards delivering faster, more efficient, and more beneficial services. Drones are just the latest step in this long and exciting journey for Delmec.

Earlier this year, our long-term client Helios Towers Ghana tasked us with dismantling four large guyed masts, ranging from 80m to 150m. The masts were being decommissioned due to their condition, as rectifying them had proven to be uneconomical. Because of the complexity of the operation, Delmec equipped the site’s teams with a drone to help them get a clear picture of the challenge ahead. This reduced time on site validating specific details on the structure, or checking issues with active equipment. For the client, this meant quicker and cheaper site visits to quickly assess any network issues, thus reducing downtime. 

Our DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone captured images of the masts and conveyed them back to our HQ, where engineers could check for any wildlife or climbing dangers, examine the connections for any unknown issues and give the site team an overview of the surrounding area. It was a straightforward task, but its value was crucial, as it enabled everyone to gain visibility of the masts’ condition before tasking the crew with climbing.

Drones have become increasingly useful in our work as we assist our clients while navigating pandemic-related restrictions around the world. They help to facilitate a more COVID-safe working environment, where the drone pilot can capture images for Delmec HQ to review, delivering increased accuracy safely and efficiently. Helios Towers Ghana has 981 sites across the country, and our work with them often draws on resources from Rwanda, DRC, Tanzania and South Africa. However, customs and air freight issues also affected our ability to bring specialist tools in-country, so we had to ensure we were fully apprised of what was needed in advance of the work’s commencement. The drone helped enormously in these planning stages and will be useful going forward as we incorporate roadmaps into live projects.

In Ghana, the task was successfully carried out, removing four high-risk masts from our client’s portfolio. We found that the drone not only facilitated faster, safer work, but also provided the client with better images of the structure and compound post-works. This removes the possibility of failed site visits, thus reducing additional mobilisation costs.

More generally, these types of images also serve to benefit the tower owner’s sales department, who will be given a portfolio of high-quality shots that are far less restrictive than those achieved by a climber. Precise imagery helps our clients ascertain new sales opportunities; they can accurately measure available space for new equipment and confirm the line of sight for microwave installation and space to be allocated. This all helps to reduce administration costs, avoid operator disputes and above all, make the process of selling a smooth one.

The drone’s ability to validate surrounding area for new builds is also of benefit, as it provides tower owners with detail on available compound space and helps them explore the possibility of extension. The data can also be of use in solving any contractual issues with neighbouring landowners.

The Ghana project marked a major step in proving the benefits of Delmec’s drone offering and it will now become a standard part of our tool kit, supplying our clients with an overview of their masts’ condition, an extra layer of visibility on site and a bank of current, accurate data that will greatly assist with future sales. We’re now trialling a more sophisticated drone with mapping capability, which will provide a valuable extra service to our clients at home and abroad. 

For more information on this complex project and exciting new step in towerco technology, check out our short video with spectacular drone footage of the task, our teams’ expert work – and the lush green Ghanaian countryside too.

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