Telstra Trials Drone Swarm, Mobile Cell on Wings for Disaster Management
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 | Comments

Telstra is developing and trialing new drone technologies that have the potential to assist in disaster management scenarios using the mobile network.

The Telstra Labs team displayed a drone swarm and a mobile cell on wings demonstration that used 4GX on the Telstra mobile network. The drone swarm is a group of drones controlled by a single pilot flying in formation and using vision capture to quickly and efficiently map an area impacted by fire or flood.

As the technology and regulations evolve, allowing for more than one drone per pilot, drone swarms will be deployed routinely to simultaneously cover and search a large area, which could save lives in an emergency rescue situation, and time and money in less dramatic situations.

The cell on wings is a mobile small cell mounted on a drone to temporarily boost mobile network coverage in a local area, particularly useful in emergency situations. This can be done through a tethered backhaul, by wiring a network cable to the drone from the ground while it is flying, or via a wireless line of site extension, relaying the signal from another tower.

“The mobile network allows us to quickly send and receive data from the drone, and allows the pilots to safely set up missions for multiple drones through a single platform with visibility and control over all the drones that are flying,” said Telstra Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Hakan Eriksson. “In the future 5G will allow operators using this type of technology to run missions end-to-end with an extensive data uplink capability. This would mean being able to stream large sets of live data (such as high resolution video) back to operators to be able to use straight away, and back to the server for even more intelligent decision making.”

Telstra said it is committed to being the leading enabler and communications backbone of the future safe and secure drone-based economy.

“Drones are an important emerging technology and will have many applications and impacts on our customers’ businesses and personal lives. Within Telstra Labs our drones team is assessing how we can make Telstra’s networks and systems ready to assist and enable our customers to take advantage of this technology,” Eriksson said.

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