by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M Crosby
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The first of their kind with UScellular’s 5G network, these tests will establish a foundation for other use cases of cellular-connected drones in the future.
The companies’ first visual line of sight trials were held in Beloit, Wis., with a drone flown between two of UScellular’s commercial 5G towers. The drone was equipped with a 5G smartphone and RF measurement equipment designed to capture performance metrics like signal strength and quality, upload and download speeds, and latency throughout the flights at various altitudes. Using both low and high band spectrum, data was captured with the goal of gathering and analyzing network connectivity and speed data in the air in order to compare it to the speeds experienced on the ground.
“Testing our wireless connections at altitude can set the stage for future connectivity of drones in the air, providing command and control capability along with enabling real-time image and data sharing to be easier, faster and safer,” said Narothum Saxena, vice president of technology strategy and architecture at UScellular. “We believe that our network can help drones fly in an optimal way if they have connectivity, and with Ericsson’s support, we will continue to drive innovation that can help enhance our customers’ wireless experience.”
One drone use case for UScellular and other wireless providers is the ability to inspect towers without climbing them. Though currently possible with non-connected drones, 5G connectivity will enable drones to reach areas beyond visual line of sight, with footage live streamed over UScellular’s network. This will allow for more efficient and affordable site inspections, with benefits like real-time data collection and delivery and guaranteeing the correct footage is captured, particularly in hard-to-reach areas.
“Drone technology offers a wide scope of new opportunities in today’s market. Our testing with UScellular is a huge step for advanced connected drones use cases that will benefit society and businesses,” said Jossie Prochilo, Vice President and Key Account Manager, UScellular Account for Ericsson North America. “Ericsson Connected Drone Testing and Ericsson Device Analytics enables service providers to move forward with proven solutions and provides UScellular with an industry-leading set of capabilities for connected drone testing to support the commercial operation of drones over 5G networks.”
A recent Arthur D Little study found that the number of drones sold worldwide is steadily rising, with overall market size increasing up to US $30 billion in the next 10 years and value of services reaching $50 billion in the next five. Long distance, beyond visual line of sight commercial drones introduce a major opportunity for industries and consumers alike. 5G connectivity enables countless crucial drone use cases, such as the rapid delivery of essential medicines, or the distribution of important supplies in areas impacted by disaster.
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Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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