UK’s first drone delivery over 4G network

It's about time for some Christmas cheer. Vodafone UK recently conducted UK's first ever drone delivery piloted over a 4G mobile network.
25 December 2018

UK’s first drone delivery over 4G network. (Source: Vodafone UK)

It’s about time for some Christmas cheer. Vodafone UK recently conducted the country’s first ever drone delivery piloted over a 4G mobile network. They dressed up the drone with some festive Santa sleigh livery and set it off.

The drone was used to deliver some well-deserved treats to 75 volunteers with the Portland Bill Coastwatch in Dorset, who spend 9,500 hours collectively every year acting as the coast’s eyes and ears.

The company believes that the imminent arrival of low-latency 5G networks will make drone delivery, even in built-up areas, an everyday occurrence, allowing for brand new ways to exchange physical items using digital technology.

“Technology plays an increasingly important role in connecting people over Christmas,” says Vodafone UK’s CTO, Scott Petty. “Flying a drone over 4G for the first time gives us a glimpse of what Christmas deliveries of the future might look like.

Speaking to industry press, the company said that a system was installed on the aircraft to enable it to receive commands from the ground station over the 4G network.

The laptop, acting as the ‘ground station’ is connected to the internet via the 4G network, and it sends commands to the drone in the form of GPS coordinates to provide it an automated flight path to the landing site.

Vodafone Business’ Enterprise Director, Anne Sheehan said that future 5-G enabled drones will be used in a range of sectors, from agriculture and retail to construction and energy.

According to a report from PwC, there could be 76,000 drones operating in UK’s skies, and it could generate 628,000 new jobs, whilst realizing at least US$20 billion in net cost savings to the country’s economy as well.

Drones are being hailed as a game changer for the UK economy, with a GDP uplift of at least US$53 billion by 2030. One example cited in the report pertains to the use of drones in the oil and gas industry.

Employee exposure to ‘working at height’, which is the number two cause of industrial fatalities in the UK, has now been drastically reduced.

Combined with traditional techniques, drones can dramatically increase the efficiency of inspections, on an oil rig for example, where an eight-week job with traditional scaffolding now only takes a matter of days to get done.

The technology can also be used for pipeline inspection, gas sensing, oil spill monitoring, delivery, environmental, wildlife monitoring and security.

A convergence of aerial, ground and subsea robotics that are autonomous, with IoT devices in an AI-driven infrastructure is definitely probable in the future too.