Benidorm hosts the world's first drone flight in a real urban environment, controlled with Vodafone 5G network

Vodafone has deployed commercial 5G network in Benidorm that has facilitated remote control of drones, beyond the pilot's line of sight, using the operator's network
Benidorm hosts the world's first drone flight in a real urban environment, controlled with Vodafone 5G network.
Benidorm hosts the world's first drone flight in a real urban environment, controlled with Vodafone 5G network.

AESA, the City Council, CATEC and the UPV collaborate. The use of these devices with a cooperative sense, the definition of areas limited to the return and the concept of ‘Drone as a Service’ are some of the novelties that the presentation incorporates

The city of Benidorm hosted today the world's first drone flight in a real urban environment controlled by the 5G network beyond the pilot's line of sight. This flight has been carried out by Vodafone, pioneer in the deployment of 5G network in Spain. Never before such a project has been carried out in the world and to make it possible, commercial 5G coverage has been deployed in Benidorm that has allowed optimizing all flight operations.

This milestone, which is authorized by the State Air Safety Agency (AESA), has been possible thanks to the commitment to public-private collaboration between Vodafone, Benidorm City Council, CATEC (Advanced Center for Aerospace Technologies) and the UPV (Polytechnic University of Valencia).

In a presentation made at the municipal center El Torrejó, the mayor of Benidorm, Toni Pérez; the network director of Vodafone Group, Santiago Tenorio; and the territorial director of the company in the Valencian Community, Jesus Uso; They have transferred all the details of this first flight and presentation that has subsequently been carried out in two enclaves of the city: Poniente beach and in the park of Bélgica Avenue. This presentation was attended, among others, by the councillor of Public Security, Lorenzo Martínez; the Councilor for Innovation, Aida García Mayor; members of the Corporation; the UPV professor, Israel Quintanilla; and Visit Benidorm manager, Leire Bilbao.

Citizens and tourists of Benidorm have been able to observe all the capabilities that drones can carry out thanks to the innovation of 5G networks in two different scenarios:

5G urban flight. Flights have been made in the Park of Bélgica Avenue of Benidorm where a system of static, temporary and dynamic exclusion zones based on mobile network and developed by Vodafone has been shown. Drone control and live streaming from the drone have been carried out through the 5G network, as well as the resolution of real-time flight conflicts, which is one of the great benefits of centralized control through the network mobile.
Medication delivery Another of the tests that has caused more interest has been the simulation of transport of pharmaceutical products from the beach of Poniente to the Island of Benidorm, 2.5 nautical miles (4 km.) Away with a drone. With this exercise, the role of 5G technology as the enabler of a faster and more efficient emergency service is evident.
The mayor has pointed out that with these flights "the future is landing in Benidorm" with "such immense possibilities, which seem unbeatable," and added that these are an example of "technology and innovation put at the service of citizens." Toni Pérez has stressed that the premiere of this technology in the city is the result of "public-private collaboration" of "two major brands such as Vodafone and Benidorm" that represent "innovation" in each of its areas. He also recalled that Benidorm was "the first municipality to provide a drone to its Local Police" with applications that have improved security and attention to citizens.

For his part, the network director of Vodafone Group has explained that the technology tested and deployed today on these flights substantially increases "the accuracy and safety zones in an urban environment where there can be many drones per square kilometer." Thus he has referred to the reduction of latency, the centralization of the control or the development of interference mitigation techniques.

Jesús Suso, in turn, has ensured that “5G technology” that Benidorm will soon have at commercial level “is the key to digital transformation”, since it will allow many more devices to be connected to the same network, multiply at least 10 bandwidth and reduce latency.


Mobile drone airspace control

These presentations have shown the advantages of the 5G network to control the drone airspace, through flights in cooperative environments or definition of areas limited to the flight - (No FlyZones) - that exemplify the proposal of ‘Dron as a Service ’. Thus:

The deployment of drones in a cooperative environment serves to prioritize one drone over another. The assistants have been able to verify how in the case that a drone coincides in the same airspace with another of the police, for example, the conflict can be resolved simply by modifying the flight altitude. This is the first step to build a new model that drones are a service, which could be requested on demand - like an Uber - thanks to a collaborative and organized airspace through the connectivity and functions that the network enables.
On the other hand, it will carry the cloud (cloud drone) onboard and navigation functions allowing drones to be smaller, lighter and consume less energy, improving their safety and autonomy. In this sense, the low latency of 5G is key to achieving it.
The 4G and 5G mobile network has been used to control the drone beyond the visual range of the pilot and broadcast live images from the drone camera.
The success of the test of the zones limited to the flight has demonstrated the utility of providing mobility to this type of zones. In emergencies they could be used to stop the movement of unmanned and unauthorized aircraft, a very useful function for police drones.

RPS to geolocate drones
Last week Vodafone has been collecting data for further analysis on how it affects having more base stations to the accuracy of the RPS (Radio Positioning System) geolocation technology for drones. The advantage of an urban scenario for the Network-assisted positioning (RPS) is that the distance between base stations is much smaller than in rural areas, which allows us to expect even greater precision than those obtained so far in previous tests.

SIM connectivity for added security

According to a report by WPI Economics for Vodafone UK, the integration of mobile connectivity with SIM in drones would help reduce their illegal and irresponsible use in areas near airports, which generate potentially catastrophic incidents on passenger flights. In particular, 80% of respondents would support the widespread adoption of drones if they had a security and monitoring or follow-up mechanism beyond the pilot's line of sight.