Measuring Microwave Link Heights using a Drone

Recently our team was engaged to design a 100 Mbps microwave connection between two industrial sites in South East Queensland. Despite the short distance some considerable heights would be required in order to clear vegetation and buildings along the path.

We used a DJI Phantom drone to estimate the necessary height at which optical line of sight could be achieved. The drone estimated a relative level from where the height of the building would be deducted to determine whether installing a roof tower was practical.

In this particular case a roof tower would not be an economical decision when considering the requirement for yearly inspections and maintenance program. As an alternative we elected to leverage a large load-out silo to achieve the necessary height. This of course introduced new challenges as now a fibre optic connection would have to be run to the facility some 120 metres from the main office.

Microwave Link Hardware

Optical line of sight was achieved at 14 metres AGL. Radio Line of Sight could be established with first Fresnel Zone clearance at about 20 metres. To ensure the link could meet its 10 year operating lifespan, the equipment would be mounted at 25 metres to provide an allowance for vegetation growth.

Ubiquiti RocketDish AC was elected based on the dictated project economics. The link provided standard commercial grade connectivity with minimal impact to business in the event of a failure, courtesy of a 4G backup service. The connectorised Ubiquiti Rocket AC unit installed may require replacement once during the 10 year project lifespan, which would present a good opportunity to upgrade the unit to the latest technology.

Despite a reasonably short link distance the shrouded radome and large 600 mm dish size would provide protection against physical environment and hostile interference. Channel widths were also restricted to prevent unnecessary interference and to maintain clean channel conditions.

Ubiquiti RocketDish AC installation diagram