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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

How 5G can supercharge drones

  • A major advantage of 5G is the lower latency rate of 1 millisecond in comparison to 4G where average latency is 50 millisecond
  • Latency is the time taken by data to travel from transmitter to receiver and is indicative of the quality of connection with the network

Modern day drones can travel a lot faster, have better cameras and battery backup but the existing 4G networks they rely on for communication has certain limitations which restricts the industry from realising its full potential.

At the 43rd AGM, Mukesh Ambani, chairman and MD Reliance Industries talked about using 5G enabled drones for agriculture. Though Ambani referred only to a specific use case, having access to 5G technology can enhance the overall capabilities of drones with wider use cases.

"At the moment lots of drones are not allowed to fly beyond line of sight, so the networks don’t need to be so complex. But in the longer term when there will be more usage of autonomous drones flying long distance. To be able to fly that far drones will need 5G for better navigation and communication with the pilot," said Kay Sharpington, Principal Analyst, Research, Gartner.

A major advantage of 5G is the lower latency rate of 1 millisecond in comparison to 4G where average latency is 50 millisecond.

Latency is the time taken by data to travel from transmitter to receiver and is indicative of the quality of connection with the network. So, no matter how fast internet speeds are, latency can still lead to minor delays in response from drones. 5G enabled drones will improve pilot's control over them from miles away in real time.

"5G will allow drones to fly with a lot of accuracy. For example, during a flight any communication from a pilot needs to be communicated without any delay. A lot of drone use cases also involve videos, which involves a lot of data streaming. 5G is very good at translating data rapidly," said Sharpington.

On the same note, access to faster internet speeds means drones can live stream high volumes of high resolution data which would allow them to operate at higher altitudes.

They can also enable businesses to apply near real-time AI (artificial intelligence) analytics during flight using edge computing. This will help them gain valuable insights in real-time.

Due to limitations of 4G, currently any real-time processing takes place on the drone itself.

In case of autonomous drones, lower latency will allow operators to keep track of the entire fleet with a lot more accuracy. This will prevent them from flying into restricted areas. Being able to manage an entire fleet of drones will be critical when they will be used to carry and deliver goods to customers on their doorstep.

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