The drone, created through a partnership between NSW Telco Authority and Vocus-owned Challenge Networks, will help to provide vital connectivity to those affected by natural disasters
Supported by high speed, low-latency satellite connectivity from the Vocus Satellite–Starlink solution, the drone can act as a temporary mobile tower providing mobile connectivity to a 28km² area.
This will serve to provide vital mobile connectivity in situations where pre-existing infrastructure may be damaged, such as following natural disasters like earthquakes and floods.
The drone is tethered with a ground-based power supply, meaning it will be able to fly for an unlimited amount of time, eliminating worries around limited battery life during emergency operations. It will only need to briefly land for maintenance checks around every 12 hours.
The drone has been designed to be adaptable for various emergency situations, carrying different payloads for different scenarios. It can carry up to 15kg of equipment, which could include 4G and 5G network equipment, P25-compliant two-way radios, or even floodlights and cameras.
When equipped with mobile network infrastructure, the drone can be used as a repeater to support preexisting public networks, or to create a private network only used by emergency responders.
The drone was tested recently at a fire service base in Bimbimbie, rural New South Wales, where disaster response teams trialed the drone’s critical communication capabilities.
“This is an example of how Vocus is using its strength in satellite technology, and Challenge Networks’ expertise in wireless and systems integration to deliver a brilliantly simple solution for a particularly Australian challenge,” said Ashley Neale, Development Manager Space and Satellite, Vocus.
In Australia, mobile network coverage currently only reaches 27% of the country’s landmass, hence it is particularly difficult to access casualties and offer support during emergency situations in remote areas.
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