Verizon is hoping to bring 4G LTE connections to drones, with one use being pipeline surveillance in the energy industry.
Through its Airborne LTE Operations initiative, Verizon hopes to bring 4G LTE connections to drones and use its ThingSpace platform for airborne applications such as drone surveillance of industrial assets.
Earlier this year Verizon worked with American Aerospace Technologies, a sensors and drone manufacturer, on a controlled trial to test connectivity between aerial platforms and the 4G LTE network. It was conducted with a 17-foot wingspan drone and tested airborne inspection techniques that the company hopes can be applied to the hundreds of miles of pipeline in Virginia and nationwide.
“This latest trial demonstrated how emerging technology combined with wireless networks can improve safety and security,” said Mike Haberman, vice president, Network Operations, Verizon. “A nationwide reliable 4G LTE network is the foundation for the future of mobile IoT in the air.”
The trial was successful, Verizon stated, and the next steps involve waiting for federal regulators to allow UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) operation beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Once this happens new trials will begin to test BVLOS command-and-control operations for long-distance drones.
Verizon’s plans for their new Airborne LTE Operations (ALO) initiative include the launch of a new suite of IoT services next year. The services will run on the company’s ThingSpace IoT platform and are designed to help developers deploy and manage airborne applications.
Projects in the ALO initiative also include:
- A new device certification process to set requirements for access to wireless connectivity for unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned aerial systems on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.
- Collaborations with Sierra Wireless, which provides connectivity for IoT applications, and American Aerospace.
- Technical trials across the United States.
Verizon said they also have an early-adopter exercise planned for Cape May, NJ that will use unmanned aircraft to demonstrate how they can work together with Verizon’s network to help first responders and emergency management personnel.