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Why does it make sense to implement 5G mobile communications in drones? Professional mapping drones are equipped with cameras that create high-resolution aerial images. The collected data is used to serve various industries and diverse use cases. The amount of data is constantly increasing and needs to be transferred to a server or data cloud for analysis. For specific cases or on request by the users, data from the flying drone must be transmitted in real-time to a ground control station.

This is the case when inspecting and monitoring infrastructure or when assessing a live situation during rescue operations. In the future, 5G technology is a possible solution approach to ensure more transmission capacity in the network and higher transmission speeds on a sustainable basis. At full network coverage, 5G mobile communication offers the possibility of controlling the drone with almost unlimited range and sending the captured data to the control centers in real-time.

For DB Fahrwegdienste GmbH in particular, this is an essential requirement when it comes to inspecting DB AG’s approximately 34,000-kilometer route network from the air using drones and validating the data in near time. The “FreeRail” project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), is concerned with automating precisely this use case. Quantum-Systems GmbH, DB Fahrwegdienste GmbH, Ingolstadt University of Applied Sciences (THI), the city of Ingolstadt, and geo-konzept GmbH are partners in the “FreeRail” project consortium. In October 2020 together with Ericsson, project partner of the “5G-ConnectedMobility” consortium, Quantum-Systems successfully completed a first test series for the implementation of 5G technology in the Trinity F90+ drones.

Scientists from Ingolstadt University of Technology and experts from Ericsson played a leading role in the technical implementation of this 5G test mission.

In a wide-ranging test series, a test system with a cellular modem and camera was installed in a Trinity F90+ drone. Tests were then carried out in the test field provided by Ericsson for the “5G-Connected Mobility” project near Nuremberg. The testbed provides a 5G network infrastructure with numerous new 5G techniques such as edge computing as well as a real application environment. During the flight tests various data transmission metrics were measured at various altitudes up to 100 meters, such as signal quality, data throughput, and transmission delay. Further tests used the 5G technology Network Slicing available in the test field. Long-range, real-life tests also tried out handoffs between multiple mobile cells during 45-minute flights.

“The results of the tests have shown that reliable connectivity to the drone can be ensured via 5G and that the capacity is sufficient for the applications tested.”
Pierre Ulfig

Quantum-Systems GmbH

The advantages of the new 5G mobile standard are obvious: with data transmission rates of several Gbits/s and latency of well below 5ms, it is possible to transmit data in near real-time. This makes 5G technology considerably more powerful than the LTE mobile communications standard used to date.
“The great potential for transmitting payload data as well as the numerous 5G techniques such as edge computing and network slicing can be used advantageously for drone applications.”
Prof. Andreas Festag

Ingolstadt University of Technology

PPK combined with the advantages of an eVTOL fixed-wing UAV with a class-leading flight time up to 90 minutes and long range telemetry.

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Flexible and enduring, the 2in1 System provides flight and surveillance characteristics that are exceeding performance of current UAS platforms in service all over the world.

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Hellsicht is an artificial intelligence technology provider focussing on the area of defense and security.

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