In June 2023, the GSM Association (GSMA) published a paper that explores the potential business models for mobile operators in the UAS industry. In the report, they look at a wide variety of services that mobile network operators can provide to the drone industry, which helps to detail how telecommunications infrastructure and connectivity can capture new value-added services to make the right investments for future innovation.
The goal of the research was not only to cover the basic connectivity services but also, most importantly, the value-added services as well as full provision services. In addition, the report also explored how these services are currently being developed and provided by various innovative companies.
One of the value-added services that the report highlighted was the provision of 3D Coverage Data and the role that Dimetor (AirborneRF) plays as a potential unlocker of this service.
The 3D coverage data service provides information/insights about cellular connectivity in an area where a UAS operator is planning or executing BVLOS operations. Such information can enable the evaluation of the probability of maintaining cellular connectivity when operating BVLOS, which is vital for obtaining a SORA operational authorisation. In particular, SORA OSO#6 and SORA OSO#13 that operators have to fulfil before any operation, demand, respectively:
- The availability and continuity of a C2 link
- The guarantee that external services to the operation (such as cellular connectivity) are adequate for the safe conduct of the flight
The drone operator is required to ensure that an adequate link performance is available throughout the operational volume. If the link is provided by an external party, such as an MNO, the operator also needs to ensure that the provider can guarantee the link’s performance and, therefore, not pose a risk to the safety of the flight. This typically involves an information exchange between operators and service providers that, in some cases, might take the form of a Service Level Agreement.
In this context, the 3D coverage data service becomes essential for enabling BVLOS operations over long distances at scale. Many drone operators have been negated the opportunity to extend the range of their BVLOS operations beyond that of their traditional RF links precisely because of the need for more information regarding the availability of cellular connectivity. The EASA PDRA G-03, widely used in Europe for approval of BVLOS infrastructure inspections, is also limited to RF-link only for the same reason.
One of the reasons of the historical lack of progress on this service has been the difficulty of exchanging information between the MNO infrastructure and drone operators or U-Space Service Providers.
As highlighted by the GSMA report, AirborneRF has been developed by Dimetor to provide the bridge between MNOs and the aviation system. By deploying a white labelled software solution to MNOs worldwide, AirborneRF allows MNOs to safely and securely exchange connectivity information with the UAS ecosystem. This, in turn, empowers drone operators to comply with the strict requirements of SORA OSO#6 and OSO#13 when using mobile connectivity unlocking BVLOS operations at scale and over long distances.
The value chain for such a service is straightforward and perfectly captured by the GSMA report:
“UAS operators, UTMs and authorities are in need of information about airspace connectivity. Through their platforms they send a request – which is handled automatically by AirborneRF, which triggers the processing of the required data at the Mobile Network Operator. Crucially, AirborneRF is deployed at the MNOs, to make sure that no sensitive or classified data is ever leaving the MNO. All processing happens in the classified data center of the MNO. The results are then automatically returned to the UTM, UAV operator, authority for further consideration.”
By automating this process, AirborneRF solves the C2 link compliance challenge of drone operators willing to use cellular connectivity as their primary means of communication and enables the safe BVLOS integration into a single, integrated airspace at scale.
The GSMA report is crucial for drone adoption at scale and for mobile network operators who are still exploring their position within the drone industry. The report examines 18 use cases, where services can be provided by MNOs successfully.
Furthermore the report also highlights valuable information about the following:
- 4G and 5G business models for MNO
- MNOs role in the Logistic, Delivery and Automated Infrastructure Inspection drone value chain, etc.
- Summary of stakeholders for Aerial Connectivity, People density data, Air Traffic Information data, etc.
- And much more!
Download the full document here:
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