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February 20, 2018updated 25 Jul 2022 11:44am

Vodafone to launch air traffic control systems with 4G drone technology

Vodafone drives drone technology innovation with the use of 4G networks to boost air traffic control system productivity.

By April Slattery

Vodafone has expanded its 4G capabilities by beginning trials for a drone air traffic control system, aiming to better security and safety in the process.

The company’s approach will use 4G IoT technologies and Vodafone has said the aim is to better protect aircraft from accidents, as well as any criminal drone exercises. The trials came after growing concerns around safety in sensitive areas such as airports, prisons and hospitals.

Each drone will have the ability to feedback real-time information, as well as real-time tracking of its location. This capability will bring huge benefits to organisations because current radio technology has not allowed out of sight drones to be controlled. However, trialling the technology over 4G networks will enable this out of sight tracking to be done and thus bring greater security.

The technology trials drive safety as a priority, given that 4G networks are considerably harder to hack compared to GPS data the method is expected to achieve this aim.

Vodafone Group Chief Technology Officer Johan Wibergh, said: “This groundbreaking innovation by Vodafone will help to ensure the skies stay safe as drones become ubiquitous, everywhere.”

The project Vodafone is embarking on is also combined with AI algorithms, which aims to allow a greater amount of drones to be tracked and controlled. Furthermore, in order to achieve the best technology possible the technology has been placed in the public domain to allow further innovations from around the world.

Large companies such as Amazon are planning to use drones for deliveries and other services, which brings more concern to air traffic control as the drones are too small to be tracked on the conventional radar. Therefore, the technology will also bring the capability of tracking even the smallest of drones to ensure pilots are not at risk when flying.

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Vodafone’s IoT drone tracking technology supports the aims of the European Aviation safety Agency (EASA), which is Vodafone has collaborated with to carry out the project.

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Deputy Director General of the European Commission Matthew Baldwin said: “The Commission supports all trials aimed at realising our U-space vision for safe commercial drone operations in the EU – there is a growing network of demonstrations and projects across the EU.  We look forward to hearing the results of Vodafone’s work.”

Working with the EASA Vodafone will begin the 4G drone trials in Spain and Germany, before making the technology available in other locations.

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