Operators are constantly looking for new applications for their cellular networks. It turns out that the service of only smartphones and modems for home LTE Internet is not enough. What else could use the mobile networks? Drones may be quite a popular solution. Analysts from Counterpoint believe that already in 2022, more than 10% of these flying devices will use the 4G LTE network.

Drones may prove to be a very interesting factor driving the construction of LTE networks. Currently used base stations are constructed in such a way that their antennas are gently tilted down. As a result, most of the energy is radiated to where users are, that is, on the ground. However, drones fly at heights where the signal from a nearby base station may be weaker. Despite these problems, operators are very serious about this issue. Currently, they cooperate with DFS (German Aviation Authority), EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency), FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). The aim of this work is to develop a system that would provide air traffic controllers with information on the location of drones using LTE.

LTE serving drones were equipped with an electronic eSIM card

Telecommunications companies already benefit greatly from cars and smartwatches with LTE modules. A good example here is Apple Watch 3 with LTE modem, which also has an eSIM card. This equipment sells very well, and US operators add $10 to the subscription for the service on an additional device. In the case of drones it would look similar. Contrary to appearances, it would also be quite an interesting offer for amateur unmanned aviation.

A drone equipped with an LTE modem would have many more applications than its counterpart using Wi-Fi. Users would be able to use the streaming footage from a camera mounted on the drone, which would operate at a greater distance than current solutions. However, before new drones are found in stores, operators need to take care of one important issue. The LTE network used to control unmanned aerial vehicles must be reliable and provide minimal delays. In practice, this means that data used to control drones would have to be sent with a higher priority. Fortunately, LTE in itself enables the provision of guaranteed quality services. If Counterpoint’s predictions prove themselves, then we can also expect drones using 5G later.

Source: Counterpoint