For security and drone traffic management, a robust communication system for the delivery of drones is an important component that must be in place before the delivery can be implemented on a large scale.
Skyward, Verizon and UPS are working together on a communication system for the delivery of drones
By DRONELIFE Staff Writer Jim Magill
The dream of drone delivery of packages to doors across America moved a little closer to reality this week when Skyward, a Verizon company, announced on Monday that it will be partnering with UPS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward, to develop a drone traffic management system using Verizon’s 4G and 5G technology.
In a statement accompanying the announcement of the collaboration, UPS CEO Carol Tomé said Verizon’s 5G technology would help the parcel delivery company develop the next generation of telecommunications systems needed for routine drone delivery.
“We need the ability to manage and support multiple drones at the same time that are deployed from a central location in a secure environment. To do this on a large scale, we need the power of 5G alongside Verizon and Skyward, ”said Tomé.
The partnership will build on an existing collaboration between Verizon, UPS Flight Forward and Skyward, which began last year with testing Verizon’s 4G LTE technology in delivery drones to demonstrate the reliability and performance of cell phones at high altitude.
“Testing in 2020 focused on the Verizon network for in-flight connectivity in the air,” said Eric Ringer, Skywards director of Aviation Network Technology, in an email.
“We have demonstrated Skyward’s ability to manage fleets and identify situations through live flight tracking over cellular communications in operations for various fleets.” Said Ringer. Going forward, Skyward will continue to work with UPS to leverage Verizon’s airborne LTE and improve drone operations at The Villages, Florida, the largest US community of more than 135,000 people.
The advantages of 5G in communication for the delivery of drones
The partnership will also begin testing Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband and integrating it with UPS’s drone delivery system. According to Ringer, 5G Ultra Wideband has the potential: to coordinate air traffic and transmit high-resolution video, which can be useful in remote operations.
“The low latency of 5G and edge computing is ideal for monitoring air traffic inside and outside a busy fulfillment center, especially when using mixed fleets of autonomous vehicles such as drones, trucks and airplanes,” Skyward President Mariah Scott said in the announcement. “This year we will continue to expand our collaboration with UPS by testing 5G Ultra Wideband integrations to connect the skies.”
In an email, UPS spokesman Matthew O’Connor said Skyward’s technology “is part of the equation we’re solving” as the company continues to add drones to its wider delivery network.
“UPS Flight Forward continues to test and integrate a wide variety of technologies that can be used to manage the safety, interoperability and effectiveness of our drone operations,” he said. “We are excited to partner with Verizon and Skyward to plan a future in which we schedule simultaneous drone delivery flights from central and potentially mobile locations.”
The collaboration with Verizon and Skyward marks the latest evolution of UPS’s goal to develop a system for delivering drone packages on a commercial scale. In September 2019, the UAS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward became the first drone airline to receive full Part 135 certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
UPS Flight Forward is also the first provider of commercial drone deliveries out of line of sight (BVLOS). Last April, UPS Flight Forward signed a contract with CVS Health Corporation to use Matternet’s M2 drone system to deliver prescription drugs from a CVS pharmacy to The Villages.
For its part, Skyward has worked on developing systems to connect drones to the wireless network to enable BVLOS long-haul flights. Together with Verizon, the company had developed a new Internet of Things (IoT) service plan for aircraft called Airborne LTE Operations (ALO), which allows drones and other aircraft such as helicopters to send command and control and payload data to Verizon’s 4G LTE- Network.
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has written over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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