M1, NTU Singapore trial 4.5G HetNet for drone operations

Thursday 7 December 2017 | 14:23 CET | News
Singapore operator M1 and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have conducted trials using M1’s 4.5G HetNet to provide command, control and communication capabilities required for drone operations. The trial used a flying purpose-built drone. The Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) was assembled by the Air Traffic Management Research Institute (ATMRI), a joint research centre by NTU Singapore and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).

Using M1’s 4.5G HetNet, the drone was flown around M1’s premises at International Business Park, as well as two fields in Wan Shih Road and Old Holland Road. According to M1, conventional drone operations use an unlicensed spectrum such as 2.4 GHz band to provide short range line-of-sight wireless connectivity but it is susceptible to radio signal interference. In contrast, a 4.5G HetNet provides secured mobile connectivity, enabling drones to fly beyond visual range in an urban environment.

In addition, drones could send real-time data and telemetry feeds during flight, with their precise aerial locations monitored over M1’s 4.5G HetNet. This paves the way for a fleet traffic management service required for the smart utilisation of Singapore’s urban airspace and its surrounding sea-to-shore coverage.

To expand their collaboration, M1 and ATMRI signed a MoU to research and develop M1’s 4.5G HetNet for the traffic management of UAS in Singapore’s urban environment. The findings from this research could provide insight for unmanned operations using future 5G Ultra Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) network.

Together with engineers from M1, NTU researchers will map out the signal strengths and latency of M1’s HetNet for Singapore’s entire urban airspace using drones, up to 130 metres, the height of a 36-storey building. This will help researchers to identify suitable airspace for reliable command and control of drones, including flights out of visual range. The joint project is expected to last three years, with M1 providing usage of their network and its engineering expertise, while NTU provides the expertise in traffic management of unmanned aircraft systems.

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