Vodafone and Ericsson achieved a technological breakthrough this week as they completed a drone delivery using network intelligence. The companies plan to cater to industries, including healthcare, agriculture, and construction. Can drone delivery create new revenue streams for mobile operators?
A decade ago, drones were exclusively used in warfare and military operations. But the boom of commercialization has surged the drone revolution. With more than $300 million investment in drone delivery companies since 2012, the drone delivery market is projectedOpens a new window to grow from $14 billion in 2018 to over $43 billion in 2024. The emergence of drone delivery has been a game-changer for retail, healthcare, hospitality, and supply chain industries.Â
During the pandemic, drone delivery companies have seen a surge in their services for quick delivery of food, medicines, and PPE kits. Alphabet’s drone delivery company, Wing, saw an uptick in its drone delivery services across Virginia, Finland, and Australia. Chinese ecommerce company, JD.com, launchedOpens a new window multiple drone delivery projects across rural China amid the pandemic. Along with these, several startup companies and SMBs rolled out new drone delivery initiatives to appeal to consumers with quicker and cost-effective on-demand delivery.Â
Recently, on November 25, 2020, Vodafone and Ericsson announced the successful trial of safe sky corridors for drone delivery using mobile network intelligence. With this milestone, drone operators can use automated drone fleets for medical, commercial, and industrial deliveries.
The proof-of-concept trial was carried out at Vodafone’s 5G mobility lab in Aldenhoven, Germany. The trial leveraged network traffic data to develop coverage maps that enabled the drone to fly in areas with the good network coverage. Additionally, the companies collated anonymized mobile user information via Vodafone’s exposure layer to avoid heavily crowded areas.Â
Vodafone will provide network data and mobile user data to trusted third-parties via APIs. This vital information will enable service providers to set a predetermined path for the drone while ensuring constant contact with the control center.
Johan Wibergh, CTO, Vodafone Group, saidOpens a new window , â€œAPIs will speed up the adoption of drones for commercial and public sector use, bringing many benefits such as being able to assess fires, deliver medical supplies, and help businesses survey hazardous conditions like construction sites, power lines and our own mobile masts, quicker and more safely.â€
Erik Ekudden, CTO of Ericsson, saidOpens a new window , â€œDrones 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.Â
â€œSmarter 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.â€
Since 2016, Vodafone has been connecting the skies with drone technology. This trial builds on its existing partnership with Ericsson since 2018. The companies have demonstrated the potential of mobile networks in connected drones and have opened a door of opportunities for other mobile networks to play a crucial role in drone delivery for commercial purposes.
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