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NTU and M1 conduct drone trials using 4.5 network to provide command

NTU and M1 conduct drone trials using 4.5 network to provide command, control and communication capabilities

Nanyang
Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Singapore
telco, M1 Limited, (M1) have
conducted successful trials using M1’s 4.5G Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) to
provide command, control and communication capabilities required for safe and
efficient drone operations.

A purpose-built drone, an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS),
assembled by the Air Traffic Management Research Institute (ATMRI), was flown around
M1’s premises at International Business Park, as well as two fields in Wan Shih
Road and Old Holland Road, using M1’s 4.5G HetNet, the drone was. (ATMRI is
joint research centre by NTU Singapore and the Civil Aviation Authority of
Singapore.
)

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
well-optimised 4.5G HetNet provides secured, low latency and high throughput
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 would enable a dynamic and robust fleet traffic management
solution, required for the smart utilisation of Singapore’s urban airspace and
its surrounding sea-to-shore coverage. 

To further the collaboration, M1 and ATMRI signed a
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today, 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 valuable insight for unmanned
operations using future 5G Ultra Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC)
network.

Mr. Denis Seek, Chief Technical Officer of M1, said, “This
collaboration is another innovation to accelerate Singapore’s transformation
towards a Smart Nation. Interest in drones has already taken off beyond
recreational and hobbyist groups, into serious commercial applications. Mobile
technology has the potential to expand and extend the capabilities of drones to
enable incredible new applications such as using drones to perform search &
rescue operation at remote or inaccessible sites, aerial infrastructure
surveillance, delivery of parcels quickly and efficiently, and even new
entertainment channels such as first-person view drone race.”

NTU Singapore Professor
Vu N. Duong, Director of the ATMRI, said command and control of UAS is a
topic of critical importance especially when commercial usage of drones is
taking off.

“NTU Singapore is at the forefront in both autonomous
vehicles as well as air traffic management research. We are working now to
establish an air traffic system which can effectively control and regulate UAS
traffic in a congested airspace. By working with key industry partners like M1,
we aim to translate our knowledge into practical applications beneficial to
Singapore and other megacities,” Prof Duong said.

Professor Low Kin
Huat, an expert in robotics and UAVs from NTU’s School of Mechanical and
Aerospace Engineering, and ATMRI senior research fellow, Mohamed Faisal Bin Mohamed Salleh,
will lead this joint research project.

Working together with engineers from M1, NTU researchers will map
out the signal strengths and end-to-end latency of M1’s HetNet for Singapore’s
entire urban airspace using drones, up to 130 metres (400ft), 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.

One of the key enabling technologies required for such an
air traffic management solution is a Command and Control (C2) Link for unmanned
aircrafts, which is critical to ensure operational efficiency and safety of
drones, especially in a dense urban environment like Singapore.

The joint project is expected to last three years, with M1
providing usage of their network and their engineering expertise, and NTU providing
the expertise in traffic management of unmanned aircraft systems.