The telecom network infrastructure covers asset portfolios of thousands of geographically dispersed structures, some located in less accessible areas, carrying cellular network antennas and other equipment. The physical inspections required to ensure the reliability of these many assets are costly and time consuming.
A recent measurement campaign executed by Ramboll and Aalborg University studies the use of Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) techniques to reduce the number of physical inspections. Furthermore, the monitoring data is expected to be used for challenging the existing design standards and for pursuing design optimisation with True Digital Twins, where the real physical conditions of the asset may be predicted using a representative numerical structural model calibrated with the corresponding physical monitoring data.
Martin Jespersen, Chief Consultant, Towers & Telecom, explains:
“Maximising returns on clients’ asset investments is paramount to our approach to the life cycle of telecoms. Ensuring reliability as well as improving the structural capacity of telecom assets through remote measurement data provides an interesting outlook to complement our current services”.
The use of True Digital Twins is already maturing in other vital infrastructure areas such as bridges, wind, and oil & gas, but the concept is not directly transferable to the telecom market.
“The principles used in wind and oil & gas are too capital intensive for the telecom market. They must be scaled to suit the cost structure of the industry. Finding the right balance between commercialising True Digital Twin concepts and meeting our clients’ central business objectives is the challenge we are trying to solve”, adds Martin.
The applicability of the measurements is not only limited to telecom as other ongoing projects both at Ramboll and Aalborg University are set to benefit from the data collected.
Aalborg University is working with Virtual Sensing techniques and optimal sensor placements in various monitoring applications, such as wind turbine blades. Here, the data serves as validation from experimental environment.
Professor Lars Damkilde, Aalborg University, elaborates:
“Bridging the gap between research and practical application is important for success in both arenas. Assistant Professor, Martin Dalgaard Ulriksen and I have been working in the field of SHM for several years and this project is a great opportunity to test our novel methods”.
Ramboll has already established units within major infrastructure, such as offshore wind, which use the measurements for applications that optimise the operational performance, for root cause analysis, for predicted life-cycle management of offshore wind turbine support structures, and for several other ongoing research projects.
“We always try to leverage the synergies between the different markets and industries where we operate to enhance our development efforts. It is inspiring to be part of this campaign which emphasizes the mutual benefits of strong collaborations with research partners like Aalborg University”, concludes Ronnie Refstrup Pedersen, Senior Chief Consultant, Ramboll Offshore Wind.