Are we inching closer to the lifestyle that The Jetsons gave a glimpse of nearly 50 years ago? That’s what Uber is betting on, and has named Dubai, Dallas and Los Angeles as cities at the top of their list to test their flying taxi service starting in 2020. And while it maybe be bullish to expect a Flying Taxi to arrive at a rooftop near you anytime soon, drones, also called UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), are taking to the skies for other services, many of which will benefit from the ability to transmit the data they gather across cellular networks. The infrastructure, agriculture, transport, security, entertainment and media, insurance and mining industries have been identified by PWC as the top six industries to utilize UAVs, and wireless carriers are beginning to think about how they can support this market in the future.  Unlike other cellular connected devices, drones must be able to meet KPI-specific challenges that most wireless networks were not designed to manage, including airspace and regulatory requirements.

Here are a few questions service providers need to consider, ensuring their networks are drone-ready:

  1. Are you able to assure drone connectivity and data transfer services?
    One of the key benefits of drones is the relative ease with which they can conduct faster and safer inspections in some of the world’s remotest regions. But transmitting the video and imagery files that these missions generate can consume copious amounts of wireless data. It is estimated that a single site inspection with a standard high-resolution camera will generate an average of 50 GB. CSPs, therefore, need to understand performance at a service level, in real-time, to ensure successful drone missions. It is here where advanced fault and performance management is required to monitor and identify faulty devices, locations, services and users, and isolate the root cause of an issue quickly.
  1. Are you able to assure seamless quality of experience for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations?
    In most areas, if you want to operate a drone, it needs to be done where the operator can physically see the drone in flight.  But new regulations are starting to allow businesses to use ‘Beyond Visual Line of Sight’ (BVLOS) operations in many countries. To support this, drones will cross Wi-Fi, 4G and 5G networks to operate these missions autonomously, perform services accurately, and deliver the data acquired in real-time. For CSPs, a powerful optimization engine is needed to monitor both the network and drone service experience based on mobile measurements, with deep-dive troubleshooting and subscriber experience visualization.
  1. Are you able to integrate with 3rdparties in real-time, to ensure drone safety?
    Managing the UAV ecosystem will require superior service quality and seamless coordination between regulatory authorities, radio space, airspace, communications service providers and the customer. Supporting drone services involves setting up drone missions and planning routes, while ensuring each flight is compliant to regulations and the network is configured to deliver the required quality of service. Does your current OSS platform support these requirements, and can it all be managed in real-time?

The changing role of CSPs
While the estimated $2.5 billion in revenue expected to be generated from drone high-capacity data transfer services is nothing to sneeze at – there is an even larger emerging opportunity for CSPs, worth roughly $18.7 billion, that should also be considered.  Communications Service Providers are in a unique position to be the ‘drone traffic controller’ of the future. By utilizing your current investments in LTE-M or LoRaWAN to achieve two-way communication between drones and a gateway, CSPs can identify, monitor and track drone traffic. Once in the air, CSPs can optimize routes based on real-time weather feeds and, by using advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), ensure the routes continuously protect the safety of manned air traffic, humans and third-party property, like your grandma’s house or your local shopping mall. In addition, CSPs can manage the traffic of drones operating within a specific airspace by using advanced positioning techniques and algorithms to accurately locate and correlate network and device data in real-time. What’s more, CSPs can also ensure safety and protect their network by authenticating drone devices with security capabilities that span network access protection, user access auditing, and user/password/role management.

In order to achieve this, CSPs need to go beyond their standard OSS platform. Instead, CSPs require an end-to-end UAV management platform that ensures that they can plan, monitor and assure delivery and performance of UAV services. This is what TEOCO’s AirborneRF does. By leveraging TEOCO’s expertise in network optimization and service assurance, paired with our Artificial Intelligence, big data analytics and visualization capabilities, CSPs can match drone connectivity with guaranteed service quality.  AirborneUTM provides CPS with the ability to understand performance at a service level in real-time, to ensure successful drone missions. And by integrating third-party data feeds with policy controls, CSPs can be assured that airspace and other drone safety-related regulations are being adhered to when planning and launching drone missions. The result is a seamless drone ecosystem that is powered by CSPs.

For more information on AirbourneRF, or about how you can become the drone traffic controller of the future, visit http://www.teoco.com/solutions/innovation/uav-service-enablement-drones/