Vodafone and Ericsson have hit a milestone with their network-backed drone delivery service after completing successful test flights in Germany. The testing was completed at Vodafone’s innovation center in Aldenhoven, Germany.

The test used network traffic data that ensured the drones followed paths with no connection issues. This ensured the drone was always connected to the internet during the flight and controlled if something went wrong.

The delivery drones can take advantage of Vodafone’s network, allowing for longer and more complex flights, including beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights. Using internet-connected drones will allow for a wider range of deliveries to be completed, including emergency medicine and first responder deliveries.

Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone Group said:

“Our network has evolved into a powerful platform built on machine learning and artificial intelligence, capable of delivering video, TV, and data services at gigabit speeds. 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.“

The two companies also used the tests to explore what else they can do with a network connection on-board. They looked at improving the feed coming from the drone’s camera, with zero effect on the flight performance. Ericsson noted that this feature wouldn’t be required when inspecting assets, but it is still useful in emergencies.

Wibergh added that network-connected drones could be used for more than just deliveries, saying they can assess fires, deliver medical supplies, help businesses survey hazardous conditions, and inspect powerlines and the company’s mobile masts quicker and more safely.

Erik Ekudden, Chief Technology Officer, Ericsson followed with:

“Drones are immensely powerful tools for many businesses. We are still only scratching the surface of the possibilities they will open up, which makes our collaboration with Vodafone all the more exciting. Smarter network capabilities on our reliable mobile network will enable key industries such as healthcare, construction, and agriculture to accelerate site deployment, reduce health and safety hazards, and save lives.”

Ekudden went on to say that the partnership with Vodafone will allow service providers to reach more into the world of IoT and provide customers with more products. He also shared that the two will continue to improve the network for delivery drones and other uses in the future.

Photo: Ericsson

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