A research team from the University of Huelva has designed a mechanism that allows the repair of communications systems in a more accessible, secure and economical way than other known solutions. It consists of the use of a technique to keep the tower stable that can be controlled automatically, avoiding the climb of operators to carry out conservation work.
A research team from the University of Huelva has patented a system for the maintenance of communications towers that includes a device that allows it to be secured automatically or manually, as needed. This system would be valid for any type of construction that includes a basket. The patent is now available to be applied both in new facilities and in the transformation of current ones.
Towers are typically built to house telecommunications repeaters, sound or lighting systems for concerts or events, commercial or amateur radio facilities, and temporary military communications sites. They can measure from a few meters to reach the 634 meters of the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest in the world. They require routine maintenance, but to do so, operators must access the height where the devices are located, so it is necessary to have qualified workers for work at height.
These structures must have bracing systems, braces that ensure their correct support and stability. The new technique described in the patent ‘Bracing System for telecommunications towers’ includes a mechanism that allows the tower to be braced at different heights without the need to ascend to dismantle any element once the initial installation has been completed. In this way, the cables are released when lowering the cage or basket that some towers in the market have. This allows operators or users themselves to carry out maintenance work on radio or telecommunications antennas more efficiently and safely.
Towers can be both fixed and telescopic constructions. The latter fold on themselves to achieve better access. Still, both require maintenance at high altitudes. Furthermore, systems that include telescopic towers reach a minimum of just over 3 meters once folded, so carrying out repair work in these conditions is not easy. “The problem with fixed towers is that they require you to climb to the top to carry out maintenance or repair operations on the communications system. For their part, those that include a basket have the limitation that they only allow a group of cables or winds linked to the cage itself, which restricts the height of the antenna,” explains University of Huelva researcher José to the Discover Foundation. Miguel Dávila, one of the inventors of the patent.
A question of height
In towers with a basket it would be possible to place bracing cables at an intermediate height, but this would require them to be dismantled before lowering it, which would lose the advantage of being able to manipulate them at the user’s request. Until now, it was necessary for a specialized operator to tension the support cables once the maintenance work on the final elevation had been carried out. Now, with the new mechanism, this work can be done automatically, if it has a motor, or semi-automatically, with a winch or manual lifting system.
The new proposed system has an upper group of cables above the cage, in a piece called ‘cap’. Additionally, other braces are arranged at intermediate heights. To tension these, it incorporates a platform or ‘plate’ at an intermediate level to which the cables reach from their anchorage in the ground. From there, they are tensioned and linked to the cage in a vertical layout, moving at the same time and without having to perform any additional operation.
To carry out maintenance or repair work, the cage lowers and the bracing system located at the intermediate level of the tower lowers at the same time, leaving the stability of the tower guaranteed by the cables anchored to the ‘cap’.
With the application of this mechanism, the costs of maintenance work on these structures are considerably reduced as neither the use of lifting machinery nor the height specialization of the operators who perform them is necessary.
Text and photos: Discover Foundation.