AirborneRF provides the vital link between the drone and cellular network industries

For mobile network operators (MNOs) drones will soon be big business. Cellular networks provide the critical communications infrastructure needed for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) missions, the key next stage in the industry’s evolution. Using these networks to integrate safety-critical services such as geofencing and alerts, dynamic ground-risk determination, virtual “human-eye” piloting, drone tracking and positioning, weather condition reporting and forecasting, drone operators will soon be able to automate many of the operations they currently have to manage manually and start to really scale up their businesses.

For mobile network operators this new market is more than just about connectivity; it will allow them to exploit their investments in Internet of Things (IoT), cloud services and even artificial intelligence to provide drone operators with commercial real-time and post-flight data analysis and reports. They will be able to extend their customer base to include drone operators and independent UAS traffic management (UTM) service providers – even becoming providers of core UTM services themselves.

And the imminent shift from 4G to 5G will provide the bandwidth to support even more complex drone services and provide MNOs with further revenue streams.

The key to unlocking this potential is the assurance of robust and reliable network services. The worlds of aviation and mobile phone companies are very different, with their own operating standards, protocols and regulations. Connecting the two is no easy task – but it will be critical to ensure safety critical data is shared between all participants in the drone eco-system.

The good news is that industry experts have already developed a critical link in this chain. AirborneRF computes the 3D radio space for safe drone operation of every flight, delivering that information to UTM systems in real time. This means that operators and UTM service suppliers have an immediate overview of the status of the mobile network signal, ensuring that if there any network outages the drone’s mission can be safely managed to take account of this.

“We have to guarantee that we can provide a minimum service level for flight tracking and monitoring and if connection is lost we have to notify the operator and external UTM provider in real time that there is a system outage. AirborneRF does exactly that and more – it suggests an alternative route which will guarantee the drone is fully supported by robust cellular network coverage throughout its flight.”


AirborneRF works by computing the 3D radio space for safe drone operations by considering cellular network coverage and live network conditions – at local and national levels – using the latest high-performance computational technologies to allow near real-time processing for large scale 3D radio spaces and enable route recalculations during flight. Measurements taken from a moving drone are paired with machine learning-based computations which can adapt and simulate real-world conditions. These can then be used to recalculate a route during flight, ensuring the drone stays in permanent contact with the cellular network.

Airborne RF has already developed partnerships with tier-one cellular network operators around the world to ensure that this next age of the drone will be underpinned by a robust and effective safety management system, uniting the worlds of telecommunications and aviation.

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