How Can Mobile Network Operators Improve The Drone Industry?

Until now the focus has often been mostly around remote ID and their applications when it comes to regulatory concerns, however, this is changing because mobile network operators (MNOs) plan to bring to the drone industry what goes beyond remote ID. New drone technology uses data from mobile networks to facilitate flight corridors to open the door to safer and more accurate flights for commercial and emergency purposes.

In a trial this month in Germany, the two European telecom giants used data from mobile networks to produce maps that make it possible for drones to stay in areas with accurate signals in the air.

Such technology allows drone operators, including emergency services, to deliver supplies rapidly, while at the same time maintaining and optimizing the connection to the mobile network, which is critical for flight.

Another technology from Vodafone that was used for the trial to collate anonymized and secured mobile user data on the ground made it possible for drones to avoid crowded areas.

Vodafone’s chief technology officer, Johan Wibergh, stated, “The mobile network is a data-rich asset that can be responsibly and securely used to aid society.”*

Because of COVID-19, drone deliveries and holograph shopping are being fast tracked. 

Vodafone is capable of providing both the coverage map data and collated user data to third parties through an Application Programming Interface. This is a critical intermediary between applications that allow softwares to communicate — “talk” — to each other.

According to the telecom companies, using APIs to funnel data to drone operators would allow pilots to quickly and easily plot a predetermined path for the drone while maintaining contact with the control center, even when out of sight.

Wibergh explained:

“APIs will speed up the adoption of drones for commercial and public sector use bringing many benefits such as being able to assess fires, deliver medical supplies, and help businesses survey hazardous conditions like construction sites, power lines and our own mobile masts, quicker and more safely.”*

Another example of the medical use of drones is seen in a recent separate test simulation in Spain in which Vodafone used a 5G-enabled drone to fly a lightweight defibrillator to the scene of a patient experiencing cardiac arrest.


Ground and air risk mitigation, live data streaming beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), and other systems make flights safer and also opens up new uses. It is critical that all of the possibilities of what network and broadcast can offer the drone industry during advanced operations are provided by network solutions, that is, the ability to send and receive information. 

The use of flying drones is viewed by many companies as the next frontier in last-mile distribution and immediate delivery.Historically, the challenge with network technologies and aerial services is that mobile network operators (MNOs) and aviation have not interacted with each other very much. Therefore, it is vital that both industries find out what the other needs and how they can benefit each other, and thereby benefit the drone market.

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