Jérémie Léonardi, responsible for fibre optics deployment in Normandy, and Christophe Piot, Director of International Deployment, have invented a tool that makes it possible for a single, unassisted operator to control aerial network junction boxes.

The French high-speed broadband network is up and running, and with it comes the desire to cover the entirety of the country by 2022. To do so, 60% of fibre optics deployments will use aerial cables in rural areas. Practically, this means that within three years, Axione, as well all other operators, will be obliged to monitor some 200,000 junction boxes installed on 3m-high overhead poles.

“To arrive at this point, it is necessary to use a bucket truck most of the time and to use several operators, leading to many risks related to working at height and to working by the roadside”

explains Jérémie Léonardi, a key player in the field on this major project.

At the age of 35 and having graduated from the Rouen ESIGELEC (École supérieure d’ingénieurs en génie électrique or Graduate school of engineering and electrical engineering), Jérémie Léonardi is responsible for deployment within the Major Projects Department at Axione, and is based in Neufchâtel-en-Bray, Seine-Maritime.

“Christophe and I finally had the relatively simple idea of designing a portable tool to monitor the continuity of fibre optics in the boxes, eliminating the risks mentioned previously”

explains the engineer, who has worked at Axione for ten years.

In 2017, the Girafon was invented: A telescopic pole equipped with an endoscopic camera and a remote screen, which makes it possible to see inside the boxes.

“Thanks to its reduced size and light weight, the Girafon can be used by a single operator in complete safety, and is easily transportable” explains Jérémie Léonardi. “Using it takes up less time during monitoring operations, thereby reducing costs and improving productivity.”

12 months of R&D

The first prototype was developed in collaboration with the Mureaux (78) branch of Bouygues Energies & Services in late 2017, then field-tested in early 2018, which led to the final version being patented in November 2018.
Around the same time, Jérémie Léonardi took part in the 2018 edition of the Inno’Cup Internal Innovation Competition held every two years by the Bouygues Construction Group, and achieved excellent results with the Girafon.
This competition attracted no fewer than 647 applications overall: 91 were selected for the semi-finals, which were split into four categories, namely Productivity, Digital transition, Societal and environmental responsibility, and Clients.
Among them, 24 reached the finals, one of whom was Jérémie. This Rouen native, whose application concerned the Productivity category, had to pitch for three minutes to a panel of experts at Bouygues Construction headquarters at the end of November. “I had to explain the context of the project, its challenges, the technical solution, and its advantages” continues Jérémie, pending the final competition results, which were revealed on 21 January.

After months of work, the invention’s merit was recognised and awarded a prize in this internal event. A wonderful acknowledgment of the Axione teams’ efforts!

But regardless of the ranking, the engineer should be proud to have completed his mission already, as around 20 Girafons are set to be deployed by Axione in 2019. Ultimately, this tool, which is as of yet still handcrafted, may eventually be mass- produced and provided to the network operator’s subcontractors.