Commercial Drones – Role of 5G and Wireless Carriers (Part 2)

Continuing from Part 1, the following post aims to explore key connectivity protocols required for a successful commercial Drone paradigm and peek into the potential role of Wireless Carriers


Initially; Commercial Drones are expected to operate within visual range (by a manned pilot); ultimately though; greater cost & process efficiencies could only be realized through the deployment of a fleet of BVR/BLoS (Beyond Visual Range/Line of Sight) autonomous drones

Wireless connectivity is the most important component of a BVR / BLoS autonomous commercial drone paradigm

Simplified Example

Drones 2

Autonomous Drones operating in beyond visual range environment will rely on not one; but a fabric of wireless connectivity protocols

‘Intra-Drone’ Comm

Drones from the same entity coordinate with each other through a combination of M2M & Wireless connectivity protocols to autonomously manage their logistical operations (auto dispatch & delivery schedules, fleet diagnostics, in-flight route management, et al.)

‘Inter-Drone’ Comm

To implement a ‘blanket’ safety paradigm, Drones from different entities will be required to have an ‘open communication channel’ (a là airplanes) for the primary purpose of traffic coordination & disaster prevention

Satellite-based Comm

Almost all BVR commercial Drones would be equipped with GPS-based communication systems aiding in advanced flight planning, long distance route management and dynamic terrain mapping to name a few

Cellular Comm

The backbone of the overall connectivity fabric supporting the high bandwidth/low latency communication & long distance operational demands of the drone fleet as trailed by China Mobile & Ericsson

Small Cells, Beacons, Relay stations

Working with other mentioned communication protocols; M2M communication modules embedded within everyday structures (trees, poles, buildings, et al.) would aid in activities such as obstacle avoidance, emergency landing zones, traffic guidance and most importantly maintaining a reliable & consistent internet connection through dense urban jungles

One of the primary challenges in deployment of tens of hundreds (potentially thousands) of autonomous Drones over a localized area is safety. At the very least; ensuring a consistent robust wireless connectivity to all Drones (without exception) would be core in fulfilling that requirement

But where does “5G” fit in?

Autonomous  Drone fleets will require a  interweaving fabric of connectivity protocols that extend beyond just a singular existing standard such as WiFi or LTE

Enter “5G”

“5G” is arguably one of the most common terminologies in the industry today… more so it’s bountiful use case scenarios including Drones. The ever expanding topic of “5G” itself warrants a separate discussion.

We know “5G” won’t be made up of a singular standard; rather a combination of wireless (Licensed, Unlicensed, Short Range <1GHz, UHF 90-95GHz, et al.) & even fixed connectivity protocols becoming the core of virtually all Industrial IoT & M2M solutions.

5G different protocols

In a typical Drone scenario; this “5G” connectivity would need to support –

Drone Wireless Connectivity

CDaaS (Connected Drone-as-a-Service) – Role of Wireless Carriers

Wireless Carriers will play an important role in the evolution & deployment of commercial Drones; whether be it for themselves (asset maintenance, LTE re-broadcast, et al.) or 3rd party entities (virtually every other imaginable scenario)

Most notably Wireless Carriers have virtually endless opportunities to extend their role  beyond just wireless connectivity provisioning and into enhanced value-added service(s) depending on their capability & scalability

Connected Drone as a Service

Carrier Drone Monetization

In addition to provisioning core connectivity, Wireless Carriers could also assume the role in Value Added Service provisioningsay CDaaS

The latter provides Carriers with virtually endless monetization possibilities based on their position within the market, infrastructure readiness and wireless capabilities

SMB segment could be one potential client base; who may have the need but not necessarily the scale to deploy commercial Drones by themselves

In this instance Wireless Carriers could serve these entities with either a completeEnd-2-End or bespoke Drone solution

There is no doubt that other players in the value chain stand to benefit from the commercial Drone ecosystem too, and as ‘true’ commercial deployment nears; further monetization models will be revealed

The Commercial Drone space is only getting started with a future full of promises that stands to benefit not only end-consumers but also each of the value players within it’s ecosystem