We hope you do not mind if we drone on about drones. AT&T and Qualcomm announced that they will soon test Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones, operating via commercial 4G LTE networks.
Chris Penrose, Senior Vice President of loT Solutions at AT&T, noted, “With a focus on both regulatory and commercial needs, LTE connectivity has the potential to deliver optimal flight plans, transmit flight clearances, track drone location and adjust flight routes in near real-time.”
The fact of the matter is that radio links and Wi-Fi are simply not powerful or reliable enough to guarantee a safe drone flight over long distances. The United States does not currently permit pilots to fly drones out of their line of sight because of the weak line of communication. Amazon actually headed to the United Kingdom to test their delivery drones because of these restrictive these laws.
4G LTE and future 5G networks could be the solution to this quandary. The drones will connect to cell towers through modems similar to the ones found in smartphones. This means that drones would be controllable at any distance and would not be required to remain in the operator’s line of sight. The drones would even have the capability to fly autonomously in dead zones.
Qualcomm engineers will test drones with AT&T’s LTE cellular modems and its own Snapdragon Flight drone development platform. The system utilizes high-fidelity sensor processing, precise localization, autonomous visual navigation, and 4K videography. Testing will be conducted at Qualcomm’s research and development center in San Diego, California.
Matt Grob, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Qualcomm, remarked, “Not only do we aim to analyze wide-scalable LTE optimization for safe, legal commercial SUAS use cases with beyond line-of-sight connectivity, but the results can help inform positive developments in drone regulations and 5G specifications as they pertain to wide-scale deployment of numerous drone use cases.”