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Pole Loading: What Is It?

Updated: Mar 12

Analyzing pole load for broadband deployment

Stripped down to the basics, pole loading analysis is the process by which engineers analyze the forces acting on a utility pole. This includes the communication attachments, conductors, arms, insulators, equipment, and more, to understand and protect a pole's structural integrity. This is becoming more and more critical to the pole attachments process as new fiber attachments are being built across the US.

Pole owners care immensely about the reliability of their electrical grid, as well as the safety of all communication and power workers that work on poles. Without complete make ready engineering (which includes pole loading analysis), power companies can't be sure that new attachments are happening safely and in a way that protects the robustness of the grid.

Pole loading analysis starts with surveying an existing pole, or using build specifications for new lines. If there is a new communication bundle being attached to the pole, this is also noted. Often, these measurements are recorded on a pole head sheet, or pole profile sheet. Heights, cable type, cable owner, crossings, pole type, pole class, pole location, adjacent spans, etc. are noted for later analysis. Newer systems, such as Katapult Pro, use photogrammetry and real-time engineering tools to record, engineer, and deliver this same information more quickly. You can learn more about the Katapult Pro process here!

Once the pole survey is completed, the information can be handed over to a pole loading professional for analysis. This step almost always involves pole loading software, such as PoleForeman, O-Calc, and SPIDA.

Pole undergoing pole loading analysis

Once the model is correctly built in the software (or after it is imported from Katapult Pro), the existing and proposed load on the pole is calculated and analyzed. If the pole’s load exceeds what it can handle, either the build must be changed or the pole needs to be replaced.

Screen showing both a pole undergoing pole loading analysis and an aerial map.

There’s often a lot more involved when performing pole loading calculations. This can include, but is not limited to: cable type (aluminum cable steel reinforced, copper, CATV, to name a few), cable diameter, span length (adjacent connections), cable angles, pole material or species (steel, concrete, southern pine, cedar, etc.), pole class, buried depth, guying (such as down guys or pole to pole guys), pole top extensions (used to extend the height of an existing pole), cable attachment type (dead end, tangent, etc.), and power or communications equipment attached to the pole (transformers, capacitor banks, auto switches, TV power boxes, etc.). There are other factors too, such as current industry specifications, type of adjacent crossing (if any), NESC construction grade, weather (most pole loading calculations use the NESC loading district to determine wind and ice loading), etc.

Why it’s necessary:

It all comes down to one word: safety. If a pole is over-loaded, it can fail, causing serious injury, as well as vehicle and/or property damage. Pole loading analysis is generally used when attaching new cables or equipment to an existing pole or when building new lines. If a pole fails loading analysis, the proposed build should be changed, or additional measures should be taken to counter the load, or a new pole needs to be placed.

How we can help:

Pole loading analysis is an important and valuable part of the OSP professional’s skill set. Our software allows efficient field collection and scalable heights extraction using defensible photogrammetry techniques. Once a pole is collected using the Katapult Pro method, it is ready to be exported into any number of pole loading software packages, such as O-Calc, PoleForeman, SPIDA, etc. Pole loading services are crucial to safely maintaining utility infrastructure and Katapult is proud to offer a better way to do it!

Contact us for more information about pole loading analysis or to learn about the Katapult Pro Integrated Pole Loading engine!

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