Vodafone has developed the world’s first Radio Positioning System for drones which are undergoing trials of the world’s first air traffic control drone tracking and safety technology.
Analysis from the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) project indicates that by 2050 drones will log more than 250 million flying hours per year over densely populated areas of the European Union, seven times the cumulative annual flying hours of conventional crewed aircraft.
The Vodafone IoT drone tracking and safety technology trials support the objectives of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), with whom Vodafone has collaborated. EASA is currently developing new pan-European rules to regulate the operation of drones.
The new technology developed by Vodafone also enhances the European Union’s potential to become the centre of global innovation in drone technology in line with the European Commission’s “U-space” vision for innovative and safe drone operations.
Vodafone Radio Positioning System (RPS) for drones uses a 4G modem and SIM embedded within each drone to enable:
real-time tracking of each drone (with up to 50 metre accuracy) by drone operators and authorised bodies such as air traffic control;
over-the-horizon/beyond line-of-sight control by the operator; protective geofencing, with drones pre-programmed to land automatically or return to the operator when approaching predetermined exclusion zones (such as airports and prisons); emergency remote control intervention to provide the authorities with the means of overriding a drone operator’s control to alter a drone’s flight path or force it to land; and SIM-based e-identification and owner registration.
The Vodafone RPS is combined with Artificial Intelligence algorithms – also developed by Vodafone – to enable very large numbers of drones to be tracked and controlled remotely. Vodafone has placed its RPS research and associated intellectual property in the public domain with no licensing fees for re-use in order to accelerate the pace of drone safety and geolocation innovation worldwide.
Further trials, which will be coordinated with the relevant authorities, are now being scheduled in Spain and Germany through 2018 with the intention of making the Vodafone drone tracking and safety technology available for commercial use from 2019.
Vodafone Group Chief Technology Officer Johan Wiberg said, “This ground breaking innovation by Vodafone will help to ensure the skies stay safe as drones become ubiquitous, everywhere.”
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.”