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Nokia and Rohde & Schwarz collaborate on network monitoring drones

Finnish kit vendor Nokia is working with German testing and measurement firm Rohde & Schwarz to figure out whether it can add software-based network measurement tools into its drones platform.

Specifically, the equipment maker said it is planning to embed Rohde & Schwarz’s QualiPoc 4.9G/LTE and 5G network measurement capabilities into the Nokia Drone Networks platform, thereby expanding the use cases for drones to provide telecoms operators, private wireless partners and enterprises with improved knowledge of their coverage and performance.

Nokia already uses its drones platform to carry out network measurement, but to date it has effectively been strapping a smartphone equipped with Rohde & Schwarz’s QualiPoc Android to a drone. By replacing the hardware with embedded software it can reduce the weight carried by the drone, which means lower power consumption and longer flight times.

It seems like an obvious solution, but given that Nokia and Rohde & Schwarz said they are “exploring the feasibility” of the move, there are clearly still technical issues to be ironed out.

“Our work with Rohde & Schwarz demonstrates how, using Nokia Drone Networks, enterprises can leverage the reliability, security and low latency enabled by private wireless and the industrial Edge cloud,” said Thomas Eder, Head of Embedded Wireless Solutions at Nokia. “By consuming Rohde & Schwarz QualiPoc and SmartMonitor in this way, customers can increase the value of their existing Nokia Drone Network deployments and leverage a high level of automation to gain real-time data for tasks such as network performance assessments.”

The use of drones is particularly useful for enterprises and network operators for activities like remote site inspections and improving security at remote or large campus deployments. Adding software into the drones will “enable enterprises to use their site inspection drones also to collect performance data about their private networks even in Beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) scenarios,” Nokia noted.

In turn, this will help enterprises to make decisions on future use cases in Industry 4.0, ports, mines and other areas, such as network planning, optimisation of connected assets, safety, or surveillance, it explained.

Private mobile networks are growing in popularity around the world. The latest data from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) shows that at least 955 organisations had deployed LTE or 5G-based private mobile networks by the end of September, an increase of 66 on the previous quarter. Those networks are dotted around 72 countries, with the US, Germany, China, the UK and Japan claiming the biggest numbers.

Doubtless some of those networks are in not-particularly-accessible locations, when it comes to measurement and so forth, at least.

Network testing and measurement via drone seems like a no-brainer in a port or down a mine, to list a couple of the examples shared by Nokia. Enabling those drones to fly for longer by removing hardware elements is the next logical step, assuming that Nokia and Rohde & Schwarz can make it all work, that is.

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