Next-Gen Winning Combination 

Next-Gen Winning Combination 

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The next generation of wireless connectivity is 5G, an ultra-low latency and higher speed network. One of its most exciting emerging use cases is drones. Drones have the potential to engage in data collection, transmission and near-real-time analysis at a truly transformational level. When it comes to the future of drones and 5G, the sky’s the limit.

“Today only 10% of major enterprises have a drone program, and none of them are connected to a wireless network,” says Mariah Scott, president of Skyward, a Verizon company that specializes in helping organizations launch and run safe, efficient drone operations. 

5G takes advantage of “millimeter waves”, broadcasts at frequencies between 30 and 300 GHz versus the bands below 6 GHz that were used in the past. Drones can support 5G by providing increased coverage and connectivity; and 5G can support drones by providing improved signals and location data.

In order to connect and integrate drones into the national airspace, Verizon is seeking to be the first carrier to connect one million drone flights to the 5G network. In a related effort, Skyward recently unveiled advanced airspace intelligence for drone pilots, including essential ground intelligence and 3D views of more than one million vertical obstacles.

Together, these efforts will help map airspace and update drone flight regulations, in anticipation of a future in which low-altitude airspace will need to be managed to safely and efficiently accommodate diverse aircraft.

How will it work? Thanks to mobile edge computing (MEC), more complex functions can be performed nearer to the user and away from centralized servers. By shortening the distance data has to travel, drones will be able to perform more latency-sensitive tasks (latency is how fast the contents can be transferred from the client to the server and back). As a knock-on benefit, drones have the potential to get smaller and faster, with extended battery life, so they can stay in the air and on the job longer.

“When drone flights are connected to the Verizon 5G network, we will have digital access to the physical world at scale,” says Scott.

For first responders, 5G-powered drones could apply artificial intelligence to livestream footage to assist in locating victims of natural disasters. They could also streamline aid drops and mass evacuation efforts during emergencies, resulting in more positive outcomes and more lives saved.

For utility companies, the 5G drone advantage could mean the coordinated deployment of hundreds of drones to inspect transmission lines for faster repair and power restoration. For engineers and city planners, 5G could enable advanced traffic and pedestrian flow analysis and real-time visualization of data trends, resulting in smarter designs and safer cities, according to

Among the latest efforts to ensure 5G-powered drones integration into smart city operations, the US National Science Foundation selected North Carolina to host the Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless last September. AERPAW aims to accelerate the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace and enable new features for UAS platforms, according to