Drones are aerial vehicles operated remotely also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and are recently gaining popularity among the telecom leaders. Drones are being referred to as the compelling market for building advanced communication technologies like 4G and 5G in the years to come. Mobile network operators are utilising drones to attach efficient 5G speed tests with 5G network testing equipment and tools; cost-effective RF drive test tools to measure 4G and 5G network data. Once they receive data, they start analysing it to get insights and optimise network to deliver better performance to users.
Different communication styles embedded in UAVs: –
- Drone-to-drone communication: Though such communication between drones is not legalized yet, Machine Learning (ML) technology is being used to communicate in a wireless network environment. Also, called peer-to-peer communication, such communication is susceptible to jamming and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.
- Communicating drones with ground location: Such communication is developed on 2GHz and 5GHz frequencies with certain protocols amended in it. This type of communication can also be executed on a Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth but is unavailable for the public due to security and authentication problems.
- Communicating drones with the network: In this communication, drones are allowed to select networks at a faster pace for quick data transfer and control.
- Communicating drones with satellite: Real-time communication is facilitated with GPS devices associated with drones. UAVs communicate with the satellites to extract data from the location and measure network performance based on the data extracted.
Advantages of long-range communications in UAVs
- Drones in presence of LTE networks can have long-range communication as the network does not limit distance. The network is transmitted by satellites and towers are used to broadcast signals that enable drones with long-range communications.
- Drones utilising 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz communications come across several issues like high signal-to-noise ratio (SINR). However, 4G LTE drones remain unaffected as the communication or remote control is done by 4G Internet with a backup of 2.4GHz.
- Mobile operators can fly drones in urban areas much efficiently as the 4G/5G communication is more stable in these areas with less interference in communication. Once, the cellular network coverage is assessed with the excellent and poor network coverage areas, operators can make certain amendments to improve coverage. With this, network coverage should be improved in rural areas as well by flying drones and expanding reach to more and more consumers.
- 4G networks have the capability to operate during natural disasters and are not prone to jam by any external objects/activities leading drones to communicate effectively with the long-range communication application.
4G/5G wireless networks give wings to drones to fly high in the sky
Cellular networks are well deployed to bolster drones’ operations and associated services and lead to their growth. Mobile networks of different generations can support data flow from drones as they traverse from one location to another. 5G wireless networks are developed to enhance bandwidth and deliver ultra-low-latency to support their communications at a lightning speed. All these features are required for seamless drone management with strong Internet connectivity to operate drones and enable them to control directly and download data from drones in real-time.
As 5G deployment is expanding, so is the demand for new use cases of drones across different verticals that can be enabled with this wireless communication technology. These use cases may range from surveying programs to delivery systems including foods, medical supplies etc. Also, with 5G, drones associated with video systems to test 4G/5G network can stream high-definition video during the flight, thus giving fast analysis so that the RF engineers can take quick actions to optimise the network. Thus, operators can easily save additional costs to deploy multiple staff to perform the network testing and save time to complete the entire analysis within few hours unlike extended to different dates to finish the entire session.
Drone usage is increasing with each passing day in industries like telecom to perform stringent network testing activities. With less intervention of humans, telcos are turning towards drone technology to optimise their costs and time with smart Quality of Experience (QoE) data collection processes to better understand the network behaviour at different altitudes and weather conditions, and further, avoid such routes whilst in-flight journeys. As the drones can perform testing even at locations where human reach is impossible, drones use cases like site inspections, network-based geo-location estimations, inputs on weather conditions are some of the emerging use cases and are expected to bring on innovations as the technology becomes more intelligent.