Telstra is developing and trialling new drone technologies that have the potential to assist in disaster management scenarios using the mobile network.
The technology was on display at Telstra Vantage, where the Telstra Labs team displayed a drone swarm and a mobile ‘cell on wings’ demonstration that use 4GX on the Telstra mobile network.
The drone swarm is a group of drones controlled by a single pilot flying in formation and using vision capture to quickly and efficiently map an area impacted by fire or flood.
As the technology and regulations evolve, allowing for more than one drone per pilot, drone swarms will be able to be deployed routinely to simultaneously cover and search a large area – something that could save lives in an emergency rescue situation, and time and money in less dramatic situations.
The ‘cell on wings’ is a mobile small cell mounted on a drone in order to temporarily boost mobile network coverage in a local area, which is particularly useful in emergency situations. This can be done through a tethered backhaul, by wiring a network cable to the drone from the ground while it is flying, or via a wireless line of site extension, relaying the signal from another tower.
Telstra Chief Technology Officer Hakan Eriksson said that Telstra’s mobile network was an essential element in enabling the use of drones in emergency situations.
“The mobile network allows us to quickly send and receive data from the drone, and allows the pilots to safely set up missions for multiple drones through a single platform with visibility and control over all the drones that are flying,” Eriksson said.
“In the future 5G will allow operators using this type of technology to run missions end-to-end with an extensive data uplink capability. This would mean being able to stream large sets of live data (such as high resolution video) back to operators to be able to use straight away, and back to the server for even more intelligent decision making.”
Telstra is committed to being the leading enabler and communications backbone of the future safe and secure drone-based economy.
“Drones are an important emerging technology and will have many applications and impacts on our customers’ businesses and personal lives. Within Telstra Labs our drones team is assessing how we can make Telstra’s networks and systems ready to assist and enable our customers to take advantage of this technology,” Eriksson said.
“5G will deliver faster speeds and better experiences to mobile broadband and smartphone customers, and will also be essential to underpin the expected increase in IoT connected devices. 5G’s low latency may allow much more precise real time control over drones and other remotely operated vehicles over the next decade.
“Network connectivity is the foundation for drones cooperating safely in the airspace, and we are looking at how Telstra’s network will be able to enable safe airspace traffic management in a future where drones are commonplace.”