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Watson's bird's eye view

Pairing drones and Watson will enable the inspection and analysis of unexpected traffic patterns or how a train is performing in transit

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IBM Watson takes flight with Aerialtronics commercial drones
IBM Watson takes flight with Aerialtronics commercial drones

Aerialtronics drones are the first to leverage the IBM Watson platform

Drones can monitor and report on city traffic patterns or inspect wind turbines

Drones send images to the Watson platform for analysis in near real-time

IBM is making a foray into the airborne inspection and safety arena following an agreement to bring its Watson Internet of Things (IoT) technology to Aerialtronics’ unmanned aircraft systems.


The Netherlands-based company’s drones can provide high-quality inspection services for global organisations across multiple industries, from monitoring city traffic patterns to inspecting wind turbines, oil rigs and cell tower optimisation.


Rather than climbing towers, inspecting key areas and reporting back findings, teams can deploy Aerialtronics drones from the ground and, through high-definition cameras and Watson visual recognition application programming interfaces (APIs), immediately gain a complete 360-degree, high-resolution overview while understanding what it’s seeing.


Drones can capture these important images in minutes and with the push of a button, immediately send the images to the Watson IoT platform to be analysed in near real-time. In this way specific areas of concern such as loose or frayed cabling and damaged equipment that could impact the quality of telecommunications service to consumers can be identified.


According to IBM, as Watson IoT constantly learns over time, it provides a “confidence rating” to teams so they can determine if and when repairs should be made. As a result, businesses have the potential to significantly increase the number of daily cell tower inspections, reduce possible human error and help maintain the safety of workers, it claims.


"Pairing the unlimited perspective of drones with Watson IoT can bring these powerful cognitive capabilities to any location, where it can be used to analyse unexpected traffic patterns resulting from nearby construction or how a train is performing while it’s in transit," said Harriet Green, general manager, IBM Watson Internet of Things, commerce & education.


"We are very excited to work with Aerialtronics to bring these capabilities to telecommunications providers and we look forward to continuing to push the boundaries on what this pairing can accomplish."


In time, Aerialtronics’ said its Altura Zenith multirotor drone will be used to examine other aspects of cell tower performance. Firstly, it will ensure that new towers have a clear line of sight with existing structures and antennas are properly positioned to ensure that customer calls are not dropped as people move from one tower to the next. Drones can also be used to measure the cell size and radio strength in 3D to determine the full range of each tower and which structure should service which location.


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