- Adam Schmehl
Photo Data For OSP Engineering
Updated: Apr 4
Why does the Katapult Pro platform leverage photos instead of field forms like everybody else?
Since the early 2000s, our team has used photo documentation to capture defensible data for the aerial OSP industry. Because pole owners tend to be leary of new communications attachments due to added risk, high-resolution photos with time stamps seemed like the best way to present transparent information about the existing state of the pole for all parties involved.
Fortunately for us, photos have since become an important part of where the industry is headed, and with the right equipment, field technicians can also capture incredibly accurate vertical measurements using photos while also staying out of the power space.
Katapult Pro is built on the paradigm shift from traditional field collection to a photo-based workflow, in which less experienced technicians can make an immediate impact on high-value projects. While this doesn't sound like a radical concept, our industry tends to balk at a value proposition that takes their fastest, most experienced veterans and weaponizes young talent to displace them. Here's why we think it's the right move:
Experience isn't scalable from the field. It can take many years to gain the experience necessary to become a expert field technician, especially when it comes to making difficult make ready engineering decisions at a glance. If your team needs to grow at a rapid pace, your experienced field technician is going to be one of the hardest to duplicate as your volumes increase. Our field workflow is highly scalable because it only requires an understanding of traffic safety, basic physical fitness, the ability to take great photos, and smartphone literacy. By moving your experienced fielders back to the office for support, training, and feedback, your team can leverage multiple markets and dozens of teams in an efficient and scalable way.
The prospect of travel and field work limits your talent pool. Life on the road can be tough, and many of the team members you are excited to work with don't have hotel living and thousands of miles of driving and data collection on their 10-year plan. While replacing your top fielder may feel like a multi-year investment focused around a certain type of personality and career objective, leveraging a photo-based workflow can allow your team to get a multitude of inexperienced staff members each producing at 75-85% of your existing "John Henry" field numbers within a few weeks. Better yet, the ambition of your new field team isn't a detriment, as many of them will become your next wave of designers and engineers, and a few of them are bound to stick around in the field and give your existing legends a run for their money!
Some tasks are objectively easier from the office. Many of the steps that are traditionally taken in the field could be done more easily and more efficiently from the office. With this in mind, it's important to make sure that anything that can be done in the office is removed from your standard field workflow. For example, traditional OSP data collection had fielders measuring distances, bearings, and attachment heights, all while identifying attachers, assets, and more from the field. Tough field conditions can put data entry anywhere on the spectrum from inconvenient all the way up to impossible, whereas the controlled desktop environment (and leveraging computer calculations) can make those same tasks a breeze.
Limiting field exposure keeps your team safe. No matter how you slice it, your team is safer in a controlled back-office environment than they are out in the field. Because photo-based data collection workflows optimize for time spent in the office, your field crews have limited exposure—and therefore risk—when in the field. The average crew using Katapult Pro can collect 75-125+ poles for make ready and pole loading scopes in an eight-hour day, greatly reducing time spent at each pole.
For us, it all comes back to photos. Our workflow revolves around minimizing field tasks, instead using photo documentation to support data that will be input, analyzed, or engineered back in the office. Here are a few of the types of photos we typically collect:
Deliverable photos are typically full-length pole or midspan shots that highlight the existing conditions from the field. With known targets on a height stick or laser measurements, these photos can be marked up with heights or even color coded to highlight clearance violations. When you're ready to deliver photos to your client, you can customize a PDF deliverable like the one above, or deliver a JPEG with or without annotations.
Angle and bearing measurement tool
Like the calibrated height photo we used for our deliverable, we can also use "upshots" to gather meaningful information. In height shots, we calibrate the image using our 17' height stick and then annotate the existing conditions on each pole before calling make ready as needed. For upshots, we are actually calculating bearings based on photos taken against the pole looking up. Seeing conductors and comm bundles as they approach and leave the pole allows us to set more accurate bearings using the Bearing Calculation Tool (shown above). Another type of measurement photo could be a side profile of just the communications space to the top of the pole. With four calibrated points from our height photo, we can also calibrate that side profile to measure equipment or risers that may have been obscured from other angles.
Pole tag photo
We try to use photos to answer questions that are typically filled out in the field. Instead of entering a pole owner and identification number, we snap a picture so clerical staff can input the data at any time from any place. Many of our clerical staff members work on processing photo data from the comfort of their own homes in the evenings, which allows designers and engineers to begin measurement and make ready the following morning. Other examples of attribute-based photos include photos of grounding information, pole rot, and more.
Context photos are taken to provide back office staff with all the information necessary to make a good engineering decision. The hallway photo above is taken for all poles, even though engineers may only reference them in certain situations. A hallway photo takes only a second or two to collect, but can help designers track communications ownership, changing bundle sizes, and pick up on potential critical clearance violations missed by field technicians. Other examples of context photos include down guy and anchor photos, as well as double wood conditions, comm identification wraps, and any other situation that a fielder is unsure about.
Thanks for reading! Contact the Katapult Pro Team at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about leveraging photo data to improve efficiency and client satisfaction!