Vodafone is working with Ericsson to use mobile network data to help map flight paths for connected drones

Vodafone and Ericsson claimed a technological breakthrough yesterday, using network data to hel devise flight paths for drones, allowing the devices to remain reliably connected to the mobile network.
Earlier this month, the two companies conducted a proof of concept trial at Vodafone’s 5G Mobility Lab in Aldenhoven, Germany, not only creating reliable flight paths for drones beyond line of sight, but also collating anonymised user data to help the drones avoid heavily crowded areas.  
Being able to plot a safe path for drones using mobile network data will open up a wide range of possibilities for their usage. The delivery industry, naturally, will be the biggest beneficiary, but there are many other uses for drones that can benefit society, such as aiding with emergency response and remote healthcare.  
Key to exploring the many services drones can provide will be the way in which operators like Vodafone can pass the necessary data to trusted third parties in order to plan a route. This will be achieved through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs); for example, an operator could send the emergency services non-sensitive network data to the emergency services, thereby allowing them to send the drone to the scene of an emergency.
“As we enter the next stage of our evolution, we will use our software-driven, intelligent network to deliver new digital services that aid society,” said Johan Wibergh, CTO of Vodafone Group. “The responsible use of drones is one such example. They can assess fires, deliver medical supplies, and help businesses survey hazardous conditions, such as construction sites, power lines and our own mobile masts, quicker and more safely.”
Indeed, drones are already being used by some in the telecoms industry to perform remote inspections of crucial infrastructure; for example, Rakuten has been using drones to inspect its telecoms masts, not only saving on human resources but also removing the hazardous nature of the job.
“Drones are immensely powerful tools for many businesses and we are only scratching the surface of the possibilities they open up, which makes our collaboration with Vodafone all the more exciting,” said Erik Ekudden, Ericsson’s Senior Vice President, CTO and Head of Group Function Technology.
While not all of us will comfortable with the idea of a sky filled with drones, these devices are going to become a reality sooner or later, with regulations still in their infancy. Back in January, Vodafone conducted a study that showed that drones would be accepted by around 86% of the British public for emergency service use, provided they were better regulated. 
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