Broadband and telecom providers are finding more and more ways to use drones. The latest telecom drone application comes from Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Cooperative, a company that offers broadband in a mountainous rural area in Georgia. The company used a drone to help installers bring fiber to a remote mountain weather station that previously used a wireless connection that was unreliable during inclement weather.
The weather station plays a key role in informing residents of the conditions of mountain roads, enabling them to avoid those roads when conditions are dangerous.
“BRMEMC used the drone to fly Kevlar pull-string across several very long spans that are largely inaccessible due to the terrain involved,” explained a BRMEMC spokesman in an email response to an inquiry from Telecompetitor. “Once the initial pull-string was secured (pole to pole), the EMC then pulled progressively larger pull-string across the divides and ultimately the fiber cable itself.”
A YouTube video shows the drone at work, as highlighted in a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) blog post.
BRMEMC has offered fiber services for about 10 years and currently provides broadband to about 8,000 residential users, with about 24,000 homes passed, the company spokesman said. “As of today, BRMEMC has not yet delivered broadband service to all members, but the co-op continues to diligently work toward that ultimate goal,” he noted.
The company was able to fund its broadband network, in part, because the electric utility side of the business was able to use the facilities to support its network. The company keeps separate books for both sides of the business and handles the cross-utilization of operations and maintenance expenses through contractual or cost allocation methods, the spokesman explained. The company also took out a loan that has since been paid back.
Telecompetitor readers know how important broadband is to rural economic development, but it’s especially important in a mountainous area such as the one BRMEMC serves.
“BRMEMC’s service area, even today, has challenging road access, very limited rail availability and extremely limited natural gas,” the spokesman observed.
Yet despite these challenges, broadband has helped the area attract several companies that have agreed to invest in and create jobs in the area. The spokesman was unable to name the companies at this time, but also noted that broadband has helped maintain the area’s attractiveness to existing employers and second-home owners.
Other benefits: By interconnecting all local school systems, broadband enabled resource sharing during lean budget times. It also enabled the expedited transmission of critical medical records and other life-saving information.