UBC researchers fly drones via 5G, first flight of its kind in Canada

Drone flies via 5G network

It was a Canadian first on Thursday when two drones flew above the University of British Columbia supported only by their rotors and a 5G network.

Fitted with a 5G signal transmitter-receiver, the two unmanned aerial vehicles were put through their paces by the Vancouver research and development company InDro Robotics using UBC’s 5G network. The network was installed by Rogers as part of a multi-year collaboration to pursue 5G research.

During the flight the drones performed precise flight manoeuvres relying on the 5G network alone, without additional navigation from ground operators, and completed tasks such as picking up and dropping off a box containing medical first-aid supplies.

A press release from the university following the flight explains that drones usually communicate using radio frequencies but a 5G network can significantly enhance their capabilities.

“The drones rode the 5G network without a hitch, flying smoothly and communicating with ground operators and remote viewers with full control and near zero latency, or delay,” said Philip Reece, InDro Robotics president and CEO.

The sheer speed of the 5G network gives the drones the ability to share data and video live across 5G to multiple users. Reece adds that this ability opens up many new uses for the technology.

“Engineers in their office can inspect critical infrastructure in the field. First responders can share images and the ability to control the drone or camera from an off-site command centre,” he said. “And as the next step, control of multiple drones at the same time over the 5G system will expand the use cases again.”

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