Telstra wants to control drone swarms

Telstra Labs’ drone swarm. Picture: Supplied

Telstra is trialling new drone technologies to help in disaster management scenarios.

At the Telstra Vantage showcase today, the Telstra Labs team displayed a drone swarm and a mobile “cell on wings” that use 4GX on its mobile network.

The swarms can be controlled by a single pilot and fly in formation to quickly and efficiently map an area impacted by fire or flood.

They could also be used to cover and search a large area – something that could save lives in an emergency rescue situation, and time and money in less dramatic situations.

But disasters often don’t play by the mobile coverage rules.

To counter that, Telstra Labs have developed a master drone:

Telstra Chief Technology Officer Hakan Eriksson with one of the drones. Picture: Supplied

The “cell on wings” is mounted on a drone so it can boost mobile network coverage in a local area – particularly useful in emergency situations.

That’s done through a tethered backhaul; basically wiring a network cable to the drone from the ground while it is flying.

But a wireless line-of-sight extension can also be established, relaying the signal from another tower.

Telstra Chief Technology Officer Hakan Eriksson said the drones’ true potential will be realised further following the successful rollout of 5G networks.

He said 5G’s low latency “may allow much more precise real time control over drones and other remotely operated vehicles over the next decade”.

“In the future 5G will allow operators using this type of technology to run missions end-to-end with an extensive data uplink capability,” Eriksson said.

“This would mean being able to stream large sets of live data (such as high resolution video) back to operators to be able to use straight away, and back to the server for even more intelligent decision making.”

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