Drones and 5G—The Future of Data Transmission

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For the last several months, the drone industry has been buzzing about 5G and its implications for drones. Drone Industry Insights (DII) alone has published two different reports on the topic since the start of the year, and several other industry publications have weighed in as well.

So what is 5G and why does it matter for drones?

Read today's article to learn what 5G might be able to do for drones, including a list of benefits and needs 5G might address in the drone industry.

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5G sounds great!  Unfortunately, it relies on a dense, short hop, transmission system.  Large urban areas are the most likely candidates to benefit by 5G.  So, I agree that 5G will be great for future drones operating in 3% of the united states.  The remaining 97% will probably be happy if the have solid 4G.  This is the consensus of most ISPs that are not Verizon.  By the time 5G starts finding it's way into rural America, low earth orbit internet will be a thing, no ground-based infrastructure needed.



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I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression; “Booe for the best, plan for the worsts.”  

I really hope all the hype about 5G comes true, especially as it relates to UAVs.  But I think it will be similar to the hype about thermal.  Some technologies aren’t  baked enough, Don’t work well enough, or too complicated and expensive to be integrated into UAV workflows. 

Sure, it might be great to have 10G download capability, but how fast you could stream data from the sensor the UAV is carrying has never really been the gating factor to a succesful UAV program.  I would argue that the security issues around 5G and RIDs reliance on it will make things much worse.  

I’m not suggesting that smart people won’t figure out ways to consume the additional bandwidth but I’m not sure how Verizon’s goal of connecting 1M drones over 5G helps me make money in the foreseeable future?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Good points Chuck and Dave—sounds like we may need to write a follow up piece on hype vs. reality w/ 5G, will see if we can find room in the calendar for that upcoming. I just poked around and found some studies have already been conducted to test 5G with drones, looks like there have been a few as well as an ongoing research project.

Here are the links I found:

And yeah, from what I see on a quick review of these, even in optimal circumstances 5G may not quite live up to the hype. Appreciate you both adding nuance to this and bringing it back down to reality a little bit. :)

(Apologies for the late response by the way, I've been on vacation recently and I'm just now catching up with a backlog of To Dos.)

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