Telecoms giant Vodafone have completed what they claim is the UK’s first ever drone delivery using a mobile network. Rather than the radio link used to control the vast majority of off-the-shelf models, Vodafone demonstrated how mobile network coverage could instead enable deliveries to remote or distant destinations.
The company’s festive drone flew to one of the most southerly points of the UK, the remote coastal watchtower in Portland Bill, Dorset. Volunteers working there were treated to a Santa-themed hamper from on high.
Vodafone show potential of network connectivity
By controlling their Santa drone using a portable 4G coverage and a portable router, the Vodafone team could monitor the flight in real time and operate beyond line of sight. The test run is thought to be the first of its kind to be built and flown in the UK.
Vodafone have also suggested that, in the near future, the low latency of 5G will open up new opportunities for using drones in more densely populated areas. That extra responsiveness is obviously going to be essential for avoiding buildings and other obstructions in built-up, dynamic areas.
Scott Petty, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone UK said, “Technology plays an increasingly important role in connecting people over Christmas. Flying a drone over 4G for the first time gives us a glimpse of what Christmas deliveries of the future might look like. We have been working hard to build a network that now covers 99% of the UK population, and I’m really pleased we’ve been able to use it to support our rural communities this festive season.”
Europe’s drone delivery scene
Don’t let Vodafone’s festive drone delivery fool you into thinking that Europe’s UAV projects are more gimmick than substance. Last month DJI took part in a large UTM Test in Manchester, England, in an event which saw industry stakeholders lay the foundations for a system that could enable urban delivery services.
Swiss Post and Matternet are already trialling BVLOS medical drone delivery flights in Switzerland. While aerial deliveries in Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, are well underway.