UScellular and Ericsson are using drones to test 5G network performance at altitude. Initial trials have been conducted in Beloit, Wisconsin, using a drone that was flown between two UScellular commercial 5G towers.
UScellular explains that the drone was outfitted with a 5G smartphone and RF measurement equipment capable of capturing performance metrics such as signal strength and quality, upload and download speeds, and latency throughout the flight at various altitudes.
Now, a comparison between the network connectivity and data speed in the air and on the ground will help the wireless carrier to understand what is required for 5G drones to succeed in a variety of industries.
“Testing our wireless connections at altitude can set the stage for future connectivity of drones in the air, providing command and control capability along with enabling real-time image and data sharing to be easier, faster, and safer,” said Narothum Saxena, vice president of technology strategy and architecture at UScellular.
“We believe that our network can help drones fly in an optimal way if they have connectivity, and with Ericsson’s support, we will continue to drive innovation that can help enhance our customers’ wireless experience.”
Among the use cases being probed is the ability of a 5G drone to inspect infrastructure towers. Many enterprises and governments use drones to conduct inspections, but having 5G connectivity means that the aircraft will be able to reach areas beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), making inspections all the more efficient and cost-effective.