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Vodafone Is Looking For Ways To Jump Into The Drone Business

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vodafone drone business

SIM cards are going through a golden age. First mobile phones, then machines and now it’s the time for vehicles. Vodafone is studying ways to connect drones to the internet as a solution to identify, track and manage all of them in a single airspace

Vodafone is actively looking for ways to jump into the growing drone business. Why? There are thousands of units flying virtually without control, autonomous flights are knocking at the door and we lack a long-term legal and operational framework. Using existing ground infrastructure to connect and manage all this traffic can make a lot of sense – and big money too.

Airspace Management

The estimate is that by 2035 there could be over 400.000 commercial and government drones in Europe’s airspace. Last summer, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published new prototype regulations on ways to certify, control and regulate drones. This led to a period of talks with many big companies and organizations in which Vodafone made their proposal.

Need for integration

At some point, drone deliveries will become a reality. Companies like Amazon are working hard towards this goal. Then it will become relatively simple to get a permission for autonomous operations as long as some safety standards are met.

The next problem will be managing the low-level airspace in order to avoid collisions. 

amazon drone delivery low-level airspace

Current aeronautical communication systems do not have the capacity to absorb such volumes of data transactions and satellites are still an expensive option. So which is the best way to have all the information to identify and control air traffic safely? Connecting all drones to the same worldwide network sounds like a natural evolution.

Future steps

Once a comprehensive Air Traffic Management (ATM) system exists, it will open the doors to further stages in the aviation industry. Here are some examples:

  • Creation of “Skyways”: pre-defined aerial routes that multiple autonomous drones would use to go from A to B. 
  • Specially equipped drones will be allowed to fly in upper flight levels.
  • Unmanned passenger aircrafts: after tests with cargo drones, passenger transportation will be the next target.
  • Urban redesign: In a world full of aerial operations, some of the existing buildings and new urban areas will begin to integrate takeoff and landing platforms as well as obstacle-free spaces.

Uber drone

The internet of everything

The so-called ‘internet of things’ has been around for a while. Many big industries have tasted the benefits of having real-time data and from vehicles and machines.

The truth is that all telecom companies have been suffering big losses as their old main streams of revenue decreased. Voice calls and SMS messages have been replaced by data-based communications. The new market is enterprise-related: Machine to Machine (M2M) SIMs are used for asset management in real time. In that sense, drones are not so different.

Companies livodafone simke Vodafone, AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile and many more can make a difference by entering this new market. They have an already existing infrastructure that becomes obsolete as technology improves. The 3G network could be used for telemetry and traffic management leaving 4G and 5G networks for smartphones and occasional heavy data packages such as HD video transfer.

Imagine inserting a SIM card to a drone as part of the setup, just like smartphones. All of the following could be done from an online server:

  • Pre-flight: getting flight authorization, loading flight plan.
  • In-flight: real-time updated nearby traffic, flight path, no-fly zones.
  • Post-flight: checking flight logs, metrics, finding lost drones and solving legal disputes.

The beginning of ‘Pay-2-fly’?

Let’s hope not. This kind of technology would solve business-oriented operations – ideally not requiring a pilot to be performed. Companies dedicated to transport, logistics and aerial works would be the ones paying for the service. Recreational pilots should only be slightly affected and with very little costs.

It’s important to keep the focus on safety. The benefits of maintaining a full system in charge of all the air traffic management to ensure efficient and safe operations might be worth the cost of it.

Thanks for reading!

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