5G-enabled drone flight test center opened in UK

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A 5G-enabled beyond visual line of sight drone flight test center has been opened in Bedfordshire, UK.

The center, which has been funded by more than £200million (US$263 million), is being run by aerospace engineering company Blue Bear and is the first 5G-enabled air corridor for drone testing in the UK.

Blue Bear are part of a consortium which is trialling innovative use of 5G technology in a range of applications to connect rural communities and unlock their potential.

David Walters, Blue Bear’s operations manager said, “We are flying drones in agricultural regions to monitor the health of livestock and to survey crops and investigating how 5G can help transport large volumes of  data to anywhere in the world. In the future farmers will be able to remotely task the drones to carry out routine tasks and analyse results from the breakfast table”.

The 16km (10 mile) air corridor connects Blue Bear’s Twinwoods Flight Test Centre and Cranfield University’s airport and allows drones and manned aircraft to share the same airspace.

Blue Bear executed the first Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights in December 2018. The company will continue to instrument and gain flight hours along the air corridor throughout early 2019.

Different types of 5G technology are being used to track and identify drones along the corridor, as part of a multi-technology solution for the provision of a Recognised Air Picture from Blue Bear’s facilities. Thales’s holographic radar will form a part of this solution, as will the provision of mobile 5G solutions from network provider Vodafone.

Ian William-Wynn, managing director of Blue Bear said, “We first flew drones BVLOS in 2009. We opened the center to allow other drone operators and equipment suppliers to fly and test their next generation technology in managed environments and scenarios representative of real operations. “This facility will accelerate the uptake of UK’s latent drone technology and infrastructure in global markets.”

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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