First teleoperated drone flight over a 5G network completed in Australia

13 November 2019

Completing what they claim is Australia’s first 5G teleoperated drone controlled via a 5G network, Optus and Ericsson are testing future drone technology as well as providing a glimpse into the future possibilities that 5G may enable.

The flight was completed at Optus’ Macquarie Park campus with the drone simultaneously transmitting HD video through a 5G handset and over Optus’ 5G network.

The flight also demonstrated how a drone can intelligently identify and track objects using the processors in the cloud via a 5G connection — something the companies say will play a critical role in enabling drones to fly beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS). BVLOS is widely considered a necessary next step for the future of drone operations and paramount for drone delivery.

Optus said that as 5G networks become more mature and capacity and coverage is expanded, use cases for 5G will be put into action because 5G technology will not just increase download speeds by up to 10 times current levels, but will also provide ultra-high reliability and low latency.

Optus currently has more than 290 5G sites across Australia using both Ericsson and Nokia equipment for consumers in the home with its Optus 5G home and through its smartphone portfolio.

Ericsson said this first drone flight will help to create additional revenue streams for enterprises as well as offer new ways for operators to protect resources in the country by helping emergency services and enabling drone delivery.

Potentially, drones flying via a 5G network could provide video surveillance, real-time streaming and real-time intelligence to a remotely located operator from locations where line of sight is impossible or from highly valued locations that are too dangerous or remote for humans.

There have already been a number of experiments with what 5G could possibly enable, including autonomous vehicle HD map generation, intelligent agriculture, 8K television and improved efficiency and speed for emergency first responders.

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