Qualcomm Technologies Inc. (QTI) – a subsidiary of Qualcomm Inc. – has announced a partnership with AT&T in which the two will test small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) on commercial 4G LTE networks.
The trials will analyze how UAS can operate safely and more securely on commercial 4G LTE and networks of the future, including 5G. The research will look at elements that would impact future drone operations, the companies explain.
The team will look at coverage, signal, strength and mobility across network cells and how they function in flight. The goal of the trials and ongoing research is to help enable future drone operations, such as beyond visual line of sight, as regulations evolve to permit them. According to the companies, wireless technology can bring many advantages to drones, such as ubiquitous coverage, high-speed mobile support, robust security, and high reliability and quality of service.
“The trial with a carrier with the reach and technology of AT&T is a significant step in the development of connectivity technologies for small unmanned aircraft systems, including optimization of LTE networks and advancement of 5G technology for drones,” says Matt Grob, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Qualcomm Technologies Inc. “Not only do we aim to analyze wide-scalable LTE optimization for safe, legal commercial sUAS use cases with beyond line-of-sight connectivity, but the results can help inform positive developments in drone regulations and 5G specifications as they pertain to wide-scale deployment of numerous drone use cases.”
The UAS trials will be based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight drone development platform, which is designed to offer improved control and navigation capabilities. Already in use in some commercially available drones, the platform offers high-fidelity sensor processing, precise localization, autonomous visual navigation and 4K videography in an integrated, lightweight model for consumers and enterprises.
Trials will begin later this month at Qualcomm Technologies’ San Diego campus. Testing will take place at its Federal Aviation Administration-authorized UAS flight center and test environment. The center contains real-world conditions, including commercial, residential and uninhabited areas. The facility permits testing of the use of commercial cellular networks for drones without affecting AT&T’s everyday network operations.