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.
Nun ist es soweit. Das gemeinsame Projekt #5GConnectedMobility endet. Es war eine spannende Zeit mit unseren Partnern, u. a. mit @deutschetelekom @vodafone_medien @telefonica_de @BMWGroup @DB_Presse /// Hier ein kleiner Rückblick auf die rund 4 Jahre. #5G #Ericsson pic.twitter.com/hAD0j0j2ZY— Ericsson Deutschland (@Ericsson_GmbH) December 16, 2020
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.