Connected Skies: “5G is key to making drone operations possible at scale” Sebastian Babiarz, AirMap

Why are you supporting the Connected Skies event?

Connectivity is essential to drone enablement. Going forward, mobile networks won’t just serve users on the ground—they will provide the connectivity required to enable high-volume UAS operations. Mobile networks will make it possible to monitor drone traffic, provide long-range connectivity for BVLOS command-and-control, and transmit payload capture in real time.

The Connected Skies events works to create synergy between mobile network operators and the drone ecosystem, forge collaborative relationships, and ensure that we’re working towards the same goals.

What is the potential for bringing the worlds of telecommunications and aviation together, in terms of extending drone operations?

5G is key to making drone operations, including drone delivery, industrial inspection, and public safety missions, possible at scale. The 4G networks we use now are already enabling networked e-identification and tracking, drone-in-a-box services, and live video streaming. 5G’s lower latency, additional capacity, and flexible connectivity policies will further enable a high volume of complex drone operations.

Telecommunications companies can use drones to plan their site deployments, map their coverage, and automate wireless tower inspection. Tower inspections have historically been conducted by climbers who capture data manually. It’s a dangerous and cumbersome process—but thanks to drones, it no longer has to be. Using high-precision flight planning, automated capture, and intelligent data processing workflows, telcos can automate the tower inspection process. Drone automation software allows them to create high-precision digital twins of their infrastructure, inventory their base station equipment, measure their antenna tilts, spot rust, and plan tower maintenance remotely at scale.

One other way that telecom and aviation can work together to extend drone operations is in facilitating data exchange via the cloud. Right now, when drones collect data, they generally store it on an on-board memory card, which the drone operator later uploads to the cloud. This approach isn’t scalable. If we are to reach full drone enablement, then the data that drones collect needs to be directly transferred to the cloud. For that to happen, we need fast, scalable, and low-latency communication. We’re getting there: with edge computing, 5G towers will soon become service support networks for drones-in-a-box that will automatically fly, collect insights, and upload data to the cloud.

What kind of drone operations might become available with the advent of 5G?

5G has the bandwidth to support millions of continuously connected devices that are perpetually exchanging information. With configuration for low altitude connectivity, 5G networks will enable a high volume of drones operations, facilitate greater data exchange, and enable cloud computing at high throughput. 5G makes dynamic deconfliction and ultimately urban air mobility possible.

What do you want to achieve from the Connected Skies event?

AirMap is all about enabling drone operations at scale. For that to happen, we need robust, highly reliable mobile networks that support high-bandwidth data exchange. I’m looking forward to working with our telecommunications industry colleagues to build a roadmap for achieving these goals while supporting a vibrant global drone economy.

Sebastian Babiarz is Head of Strategic Business Development at AirMap & Co-President of GUTMA

The Connected Skies event will take place on 26 February 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. For more information please visit https://gutma.org/mwc-barcelona-2020/

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