LMT efficiently conducts their first cross-border drone flight on the cell community – Drones Information

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On September 2, 2020, the LMT mobile network successfully completed the first cross-border drone flight that was carried out entirely via the mobile network. The drone was flown from Latvia to Estonia without losing cellular network connection.

The cross-border flight was carried out during the LAMPA Conversation Festival as part of a discussion about the future role of drones in society. During the event, a live video was streamed that not only shows the flight of the drone beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS), but also the crossing of the Latvian-Estonian border, where it is connected to the Estonian cellular network for the final leg of the journey has been .

This demonstration was a significant step in understanding the technological capabilities of drones and expanding their scope. One such use case in active development is related to Rail Baltica, the international rail project in the Baltic States that is considering 5G technologies for possible use in rail infrastructure. The ability to easily cross borders while maintaining connectivity would allow drones to participate in railway safety measures by monitoring and maintaining tracks in border regions.

The flight started in Latvia and ended in Estonia, with the multi-rotor drone traveling a total of 8 km. The drone was equipped with two SIM cards – one from each country – and switched from one to the other during the flight as it crossed the border. In order to carry out the BVLOS flight, the UgCS ground control software was used in combination with a command and control modem specially developed in cooperation with SPH Engineering. The cross-border demonstration proved the hypothesis that it is technically feasible to switch networks within a few milliseconds and gave confidence to continue the cross-border project development on the basis of mobile networks.

β€œCurrently, most drone solutions are based on WiFi connections or other frequencies that are provided for drone management. In contrast to the mobile network, these are limited in their range. If the air is adequately covered, the cellular network can ensure uninterrupted connectivity throughout the flight, which significantly improves safety. LMT’s strong network coverage makes drone flights and other 5G use case tests possible. As a result, LMT can make a significant contribution to advancing the global understanding of the performance of cellular networks. β€œ- Ingmars Pukis, VP and member of the LMT Board of Directors

β€œCAA supports the development of a UAV system in Latvia. Cooperation between the public and private sectors is crucial for R&D to create new services, especially those at higher risk, to maintain or even increase levels of flight safety. When flying out of line of sight, it is important to avoid other objects both in the air and on the ground. An equally relevant topic is identification, which makes it possible to trace the trajectory and, in some cases, to inform about potential threats in the area. By using various risk-minimizing approaches, the approval of the drone flight was made possible, which offers a new technological solution for cross-border flights. β€œ- Ilmārs Ozols, Head of UAV Aviation Safety Department of the Latvian Civil Aviation Authority

This experiment was carried out as part of the Comp4Drones project, which aims to provide a framework of key technologies for safe and autonomous drones.

LMT is also a participant in an R&D project as part of the joint drone working group of GSMA and GUTMA. The working group brings together mobile network operators, participants from the aviation industry and representatives of UTM to develop recommendations for the integration of drones in the airspace and for the use of the mobile network as a communication channel for aviation. The research is summarized in a comprehensive white paper that will be available by the end of 2020.

LMT has demonstrated various experiments related to non-terrestrial cellular networks. In July 2019, they set a record for the highest known cellular network coverage at 26,000 feet in the air. In November 2019, LMT was one of the first to demonstrate a live long-distance flight with BVLOS drones.

LMT is a GUTMA member and member of the GSMA drone working group and has published a case study on the use of drones for object recognition.

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