US carrier to test 5G network on drones

Chicago, US – 5G.

Yes. That fifth-generation mobile networking connectivity that was met with so much noise at its introduction solely because…

… of its origins.

But we are not gonna get into that today. What we all know is that 5G provides a really fast internet connectivity, and network carriers all over the world are in the process of upgrading their base stations to ensure that cellular phone users stay up to date with the latest internet technology.

But not only will cell phones benefit from 5G though – apparently drones, as one of the fasted growing industries in the world – will have 5G onboarded onto their software systems, and network services provider Ericsson has been at the forefront of this.

Ericsson is working with the US’s fourth largest cellular network carrier, UScellular on 5G testing trials at altitude using drone technology.

The trials are already underway, according to a statement from UScellular.

“Initial visual line of sight trials were conducted in Beloit, Wisconsin, using a drone that was flown between two of UScellular’s commercial 5G towers,” the company statement said.

“The drone was outfitted with a 5G smartphone and RF measurement equipment designed to capture performance metrics such as signal strength and quality, upload and download speeds, and latency throughout the flights at various altitudes.

“Data was gathered using both low and high band spectrum, and the goal of the initial trial was to gather and analyze network connectivity and speed data in the air, compare it to the speeds experienced on the ground and ultimately understand what is required for the future use and success of 5G connected drones.”

Ericsson might have been here before, but for its partner, the tests are the first of their kind with UScellular’s 5G network and it is hoped they will lay the groundwork for future use cases of cellular-connected drones in a variety of industries.

“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.”

The network company says it and other telecommunication companies also stand to benefit immensely from 5G onboarding on drones, as the latter now play an important role in inspecting cell towers without endangering the lives of engineers and inspectors.

Besides, “this type of use can also extend to other industries – a farmer can inspect the top of a barn or a silo or a city worker can inspect their water towers. Tasks like this can be done now with non-connected drones, but with 5G connectivity, a drone will be able to reach areas beyond visual line of sight of a pilot and will allow footage to be livestreamed over UScellular’s network.

“This means site inspections become much more efficient and cost-effective, with benefits such as real-time data collection and delivery and ensuring the right footage is captured, especially in hard-to-reach areas.”

Similarly, another US network conglomerate AT&T has been testing the feasibility of using drones as 5G network providers in areas affected by disaster. The tests, which began last month in Missouri, saw 5G-equipped flying cells on wheels (COWs) being tested to provide connectivity in areas where all other major telecommunications infrastructure would have gone down.

The 5G technology has the capability to reach more people and devices than its predecessor, 4G technology.

“Drone technology offers a wide scope of new opportunities in today’s market,” said Jossie Prochilo, Vice President and Key Account Manager, UScellular Account for Ericsson North America.

“Our testing with UScellular is a huge step for advanced connected drones use cases that will benefit society and businesses. 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.”

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