Vodafone and Ericsson try to make sure drones don’t crash into each other

The utopia in which swarms of drones do everything for us can only be achieved if you can stop them colliding. Thankfully Vodafone and Ericsson are on the case.

The two telecoms players had some fun at Vodafone’s 5G lab in Germany, flying drones around and trying to make them crash into each other. But they couldn’t, you see, because of safe sky corridors enabled by 5G cleverness. It wouldn’t be practical to have human air traffic controllers for the flocks of drones we expect to see infesting our skies before long, so that process has to be automated.

On top of that, future drones need to operate beyond line of sight and not just buzz off in random directions as soon as they leave cellular coverage. That means they need to automatically navigate such that this never happens, which requires more network cleverness. Lastly they need to be able to collate anonymised mobile user information to make sure they don’t land on someone’s head.

“The mobile network is a data-rich asset that can be responsibly and securely utilised to aid society,” said Vodafone Group’s CTO Johan Wibergh. “We are evolving our software-driven, intelligent network into a powerful platform that can deliver new digital services. The responsible use of drones is just one such example but there will be many more.

“APIs will speed up the adoption of drones for commercial and public sector use, bringing many benefits such as being able to assess fires, deliver medical supplies, and help businesses survey hazardous conditions like construction sites, power lines and our own mobile masts, quicker and more safely.”

“Drones are immensely powerful tools for many businesses and we are only scratching the surface of the possibilities they open up, which makes our collaboration with Vodafone all the more exciting,” said Erik Ekudden, Ericsson CTO.

“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. With this technology, service providers can expand their cellular IoT services for enterprises and confidently meet regulatory guidelines. This is another milestone in Ericsson’s partnership with Vodafone, as we continue to evolve our network and meet the diverse needs of fundamental industries.”

Anyone with even a passing interest in science fiction will know it’s inevitable for future skies to be black with all manner of flying objects, identified or otherwise. A simple traffic light system is unlikely to suffice in this three dimensional environment, so the management of all this traffic is going to have to be a lot more sophisticated. This does seem like an opportunity for the telecoms industry to step to the fore, but let’s see.

Here’s a vid.

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