Drones Leveraging 5G Technology

The fifth generation network, commonly known as 5G, is causing a lot of anticipation and enthusiasm in many industries. 5G is seen as the evolution of wireless communication systems, with expected improvements such as greater bandwidth and improved network coverage. Not only that, but it is also projected to revolutionize the Internet of Things (IoT), with billions of simultaneously connected users. With such developments in wireless communications, it is no surprise that drones implementing 5G technology are in the pipeline for many applications.

Improved drone capabilities

With the introduction of drones with 5G capabilities, a much greater connectivity and lower latency will allow for a greater precision in manoeuvring and the quick transfer of high-precision data. In particular, the use of 5G as a direct, or back up communication infrastructure, will enable drones to always stay connected. This combination of 5G networks and drones is powerful, giving way to many new capabilities and improvements in applications. For example, surveillance drones using 5G technology for emergency services can be flown with a much higher reliability beyond line of sight and operated with immense precision.

In addition, 5G technology enables more autonomous operations for drones, with swarms of drones communicating with each other via 5G, and sending real-time data amongst themselves and to controllers and users. For example, the deployment of autonomous drone fleets with 5G connectivity for disaster relief services for quick and accurate damage estimates, or the efficient and safe delivery of emergency services and resources. Swarms of drones using 5G can even help with internet connectivity in areas where connections are limited, maintaining a stable connection between the fleet. With such 5G capabilities, autonomous drone fleets will be able to change their performance based on real-time data, and thus air-traffic can efficiently be controlled.

Although the latency using 5G networks is greater than that of 4G, operating through the cloud may introduce greater delays compared to using a private network. In addition, compared to private networks, the bandwidth may not be guaranteed with 5G connections, due to congested cell sites, proving that private networks still may be the most optimal drone communication solution.

Future proofing

Drone operators that fly drones with direct communication or LTE technology are able to upgrade to 5G once it is available. This means that more users can make use of the benefits of combining 5G with drones for their applications and are not limited to buying a completely new drone system. 5G networks are projected to become global by as early as 2020.

The addition of 5G into drone systems is an example of the implementation of technological advantages in instances where they are crucially needed. It will pave the way for a faster integration of drone systems into various industries, increasing the ease and efficiency of certain functions, as well as creating new capabilities. Currently, there are many questions that remain unanswered. What will the future roll of 5G networks be for drone operations? Just telemetry and control, or video streaming as well? Will 5G be a central communications system or a backup to private networks? Will we just be able to use it for specific applications or can it be used broadly? These questions can only be fully answered upon the arrival of 5G networks for drones.

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