The drones were successfully tested for inspections and surveillance purposes while connected to the mobile network

Back in December last year, IT company Cegeka acquired a majority stake in the operator Citymesh, aiming to create what they called the “fourth national operator” in Belgium, with a specific focus on the B2B market.
Now, Citymesh has announced the successful trials of drones at Brussels Airport for inspection and surveillance, connected to the Airport’s private 5G network.
Dubbed the ‘safety drone’, the remotely operated device has taken part in numerous test scenarios at the airport, including conducting security inspections of the airport grounds, closer surveillance of an individual aeroplane during a theoretical emergency, and even monitoring wildlife populations near the runways.
By being connected to the 5G network, built with Nokia technology, these drones can be flown remotely, travelling beyond the line of sight of the device operator.
“This is the first time a drone flight in the airport area is done remotely. The network that Citymesh installed with Nokia in 2019 effortlessly bridges large distances at height to and from drones, while high-definition video images and real-time control remain possible. The pilots can perform a flight anywhere and anytime, as long as there’s a connection to the Brussels Airport network,” explained the company in a statement.
The tests also included a detection system which aims to flag any unauthorised drones that may be on the airport’s land.
At first glance, the idea of drones operating on airport grounds sounds problematic; many of us will recall the incident involving drones at Gatwick Airport in 2018 which caused disruption to over 1,000 flights and 140,000 passengers. But the use of drones, partnered with private network deployment, is growing in popularity across numerous industries and the aviation sector cannot afford to miss out.
“It is important for our airport to continue to focus on innovation. Although drones and aviation do not initially seem like a good combination, this is a new reality, the possibilities of which must be explored,” explained Arnaud Feist, chief executive at Brussels Airport. “Today, thanks to our private 5G network, we managed to control a drone remotely, which is an innovative first together with our partners. Drones can be additional tools in our operations, and these tests will give us more insight into the possibilities.”
Brussels Airport is, in fact, not the first to begin trialling drones for various tasks. Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, for example, announced similar trials last summer.
Indeed, the partnerships between the telecoms and aviation sectors are beginning to grow deeper. At the start of January, a consortium involving aviation, aerospace, and telco players was formed to explore the use of drones in industrial and urban environments. Vodafone, who is part of the aforementioned consortium, has been making considerable progress with drone usage in a number of use cases, most recently in November when they confirmed they were trialling using drones connected to their 4G network to deliver medical supplies to remote NHS locations.
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