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Vodafone, Ericsson plot course for drone boom

Vodafone Group and Ericsson hailed the completion of a trial platform used to create automated flight paths for connected drones, a system designed to ensure those carrying critical supplies retained a strong mobile signal throughout their journey.

The two completed a proof of concept trial of so-called “safe sky corridors for drones” at a Vodafone 5G test lab in Germany.

Experts used network performance data to produce maps outlining routes with solid coverage in the air, while anonymised network data from devices on the ground was used to avoid heavily crowded areas.

In a statement, Vodafone noted: “The technological breakthrough will allow professional drone operators, critical national infrastructure providers and emergency services to deliver medical, commercial and industrial supplies safe in the knowledge that they will arrive at the correct destination on time whilst remaining connected to the mobile network.”

As part of the trial, the two also investigated methods of using mobile networks to control features on the drone, including changing video definition for use at accident scenes.

Ericsson CTO Erik Ekudden said: “Drones are immensely powerful tools for many businesses and we are only scratching the surface of the possibilities they open up.”

“Smarter network capabilities on our reliable mobile network will enable key industries such as healthcare, construction and agriculture to accelerate site deployment, reduce health and safety hazards, and help save lives.”

The trial is the latest in Vodafone’s attempts to grab a leadership role in providing connected drone systems. In 2018 it launched a tracking system for authorities based on eSIM and 4G and has also worked on measures to reduce interference from use of multiple mobile sites in partnership with Ericsson.

Earlier this year, the operator’s Spanish unit conducted a trial delivery of a lightweight defibrillator designed for use at the scene of a cardiac arrest using a drone controlled by 5G. Mobile World Live

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