Dutch operator KPN will make the use of drones on its mobile network possible this year, according to an interview with Jacob Groote, Innovation & Partnerships director at the Dutch operator, which was posted on the operator’s website. Along with upgrading the network, the company plans additional steps in the coming years, such as a connectivity route planner for drone flights.
By the end of this year, KPN plans to offer a new service that can provide an automated view of mobile coverage for a proposed flightpath. The “drone route planner” should support efficient and safe drone flights, the operator said.
KPN already claims 99.4 percent coverage across the Netherlands. However, that applies at ground level, whereas drones fly higher in the air. As a result, more information is needed on the network coverage in the air.
Connecting drones to mobile networks is a key step in integrating these flying devices into the Internet of Things. To date, drones have chiefly been used for photographing from the air and sending images and video down to the person operating it. One major limitation is that the person generally needs to have line-of-sight contact with the drone in order to control it. If drones were connected to mobile networks, it would be possible to operate them completely remotely, which would vastly extend their reach and power.
Drones may have started as playthings, but they have vast potential for application in industry and for first responders. Connecting drones to the mobile internet would make it possible for them to survey large areas, while not only sending data but having it uploaded to them as well. This would enable them to adapt to circumstances in real time and allow users to alter their missions in real time. KPN’s concept of route planners would be key to this extension of drones’ functionality. Of course, a full understanding of network coverage at moderate altitudes is essential to the project, as the operator acknowledges. Since the implementation will not take place right away, there is time to gain an understanding of vertical, rather than horizontal, coverage, and to modify networks as needed.
A full command-and-control experience with drones, conducted remotely or without any human operator, would make these innovative devices full members of the IoT.