Developments in the domain of drones and cellular networks!
When used to support Ericsson network operations, autonomous flights of drones have proven their value! They can improve worker safety, reduce costs and the need for travel and provide the data needed to rapidly build digital twins of LTE and 5G installation sites, improving site planning, optimisation and evolution (1).
To further improve the support which networks can provide to drones, Ericsson wants to optimize the radio quality of the communications with drones and is investigating this topic together with the mobile operator US Cellular. The goal of the 5G-connected drones investigation, run by US Cellular and Ericsson Drone Testing and Ericsson Device Analytics, is to obtain and analyse 5G network connectivity to the drone using metrics such as signal strength and quality, upload and download speeds and latency, all measured at a range of altitudes above ground and using both low and high band spectrum (2). The results of these investigations are expected to further improve the support drones can provide for Smart Agriculture use cases.
Did you know that Ericsson has been investigating 5G-connected drones which could support Smart Agriculture use cases such as those investigated in the IoT-NGIN project? Recently, Ericsson announced a collaboration with Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless (AERPAW), funded by the National Science Foundation and a consortium of industry partners, to explore and advance the use of 5G drone operation for smart agriculture applications. AERPAW tested 5G custom drones as an enabler for smart agriculture in the US Cellular 5G Network. The drone’s job was to monitor a field of cattle to collect information on their grazing patterns. The footage was streamed over a 5G connection enabled by an Ericsson base station and Ericsson Cloud Packet Core network (3).
IoT-NGIN Smart Agriculture Use Cases integrate the use of drones with IoT-NGIN developed machine learning technologies
In the IoT-NGIN Smart Agriculture use case, drones (equipped with a multi-spectral camera) are used to provide real-time camera video images of the leaves and analyse this data with the Machine Learning (ML) services developed by IoT-NGIN to identify disease in crops, to better predict the growing conditions of the crops and to optimise the planning of aerial spraying.
As the 5G-connected autonomous drones reach market maturity, they will be a great help to farmers, assisting them in optimising their crop and livestock management and their use of scarce resources, such as water and fertiliser.
Connected Drone Testing – Ericsson.
 US Cellular, Ericsson investigate 5G network performance at altitude with drone tests (rcrwireless.com)
Ericsson, AERPAW test 5G drone tech for smart agriculture (rcrwireless.com).