Spotlight on Erick Lindberg - Austin Walker
Drones are an invaluable tool for cell tower inspections. The companies that maintain these towers continue to integrate drones into their operations to increase efficiency and safety for their technicians. For numerous reasons, however, it is more effective for these companies to contract out drone inspections rather than their staff. That’s where DroneUp and pilots like Erick Lindberg come into play.
Call Sign: elindberg
Badges: Part 107 Certified, 360 Image, Aerial Inspection, Aerial Mapping, AIRDATA Expert, DJI Pro, DroneDeploy, FEMA ICS 100, FEMA ICS 700, Litchi, Night Training
DroneUp has previously featured Erick in our Drone Jobs series following his contributions to our drone delivery operations in Cheektowaga, New York last year. Since then, he’s continued to work with DroneUp, bringing with him his expertise in cell tower inspections.
Several years ago, Erick bought his first drone, and he says his friends and family laughed at him for “trying to make money with a toy.” After several years of building a portfolio and upgrading his equipment, he invested in drone training and took the plunge into full-time tower inspections after quitting his job.
“It was rough at first,” he said. “Lots of travel, living out of my truck while on the road, sleeping at the tower sites, and eating a lot of Spaghetti-Os out of the can.”
These inspections proved to be the most steady drone work he had found, and before long, he needed to hire additional contractors to assist him with the hundreds of towers he’d been assigned. The work was starting to tire him, though. At that time, he first saw a post from DroneUp’s Flight Operations Team, who needed pilots for the Walmart Drone Delivery operation in New York.
“I decided I would take a few months hiatus from cell towers and see what DroneUp was up to,” Erick said. “Up there, I realized what DroneUp was and knew that’s where I wanted to go.
“What led me to want to be self-employed is it forces me to use my brain and be creative with how I problem-solve. With DroneUp, I feel that’s still there, which is lacking in a lot of workplaces.”
The DroneUp staff was so impressed with Erick’s knowledge and piloting prowess that he was offered a part-time position with our Flight Ops Team. Since then, he’s been traveling around the country, primarily performing cell tower inspections. He has learned exactly what to look for and collects imagery that engineers can use to assess a tower’s condition. He has also learned how to mitigate risks specific to these inspections, like radio interference.
These preliminary examinations identify structural damage, climbing hazards, and other points of interest critical to ensuring engineers’ safety once it’s time to send them up.
The towers are often in very remote locations, which leads to some unique challenges that Erick has learned to work around.
“Sometimes, it takes longer to find the tower than to fly it. Sometimes there’s no access once you get there,” he said. “People sometimes overlook wildlife—bees love the cabinets. Summertime? Guarantee there’s a wasps nest. Ticks in the Northeast, I’ve been bit by one of those.”
All the more reason that the technicians and engineers who service these towers are appreciative of the work that drone operators like Erick do every day.