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Livestreaming Drones for the Future of Site Inspections
Source: Ericsson
As an essential part of industrial operations, site inspections need timely, inexpensive, and accurate methods to keep businesses up and running. And while drones are fast becoming a popular means to support this, their limited capabilities point to the need for a better solution. Thatís why Telia and our own Ericsson ONE are rolling out the first livestreaming drone service in Sweden. But why is this solution needed?

Todayís drone capabilities for industrial site inspection are noticeably limited. When an issue or equipment failure is flagged, companies looking to use drones must first contract a drone pilot willing to travel to the site. After capturing low-quality footage of the general area in question and before any decisions can be made, the pilot must manually extract and upload the footage for the siteís decision-makers to review. If they can obtain enough information from the footage and determine a rough idea of the problem, a team of technicians is sent out to try and find the issue. If either party is unsuccessful, though ó the decision-makers donít have enough info or the technicians canít map the recorded footage to what theyíre seeing on the ground ó the process must be repeated, costing time and revenue.

Real-time streaming for better operations

This precarious scenario could easily be solved by deploying drones with video livestreaming capabilities, enabling remote drone pilots, decision-makers, and site technicians to all work simultaneously in concert for reduced response times, lowered operational costs, and improved quality assurance overall. From construction sites and quarries to railways and power grids, drone livestreaming will deliver real-time, high-quality video for better aerial inspections even on the most challenging sites, such as those with high structures or expansive areas. And perhaps one of its strongest benefits is the fact that deploying this specialized drone solution wonít place new demands on companies looking to utilize it. The service itself is simple, pairing existing drones with a downloadable application and running them on a special controller connected to a typical LTE router. Letting users get started quickly and easily without any additional hardware, companies will be able to build the solution onto their existing mobile network infrastructure, effortlessly contributing to the growth of the promising drone industry.

This enhancement of site inspection capabilities would not only benefit companies themselves but also the average consumer. Take powerplants, for example: A power outage is a frustrating experience that can affect our normal routines at best, knocking out of commission many of the important things we take for granted, like our TVs, Wi-Fi routers, refrigerators, lighting, and more. In the event of an outage, a powerplant could utilize livestreaming drones to navigate their power grid, accessing especially hard-to-reach areas and repairing the issues to restore power faster than traditional methods typically manage.

Greater possibilities with 5G

This new drone potential, already underway in Sweden with Telia and our internal accelerator, Ericsson ONE, is just one of many potential use cases for next-generation drone capabilities. In fact, the advantages of drone services such as livestreaming are poised to be even further amplified by 5G. Thatís why, beginning this year, Telia and Ericsson ONE will embark on a joint development project to experiment with various drone streaming applications to prepare drones for future 5G use cases. By employing 5G and extending what they can do beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) using mobile networks, the drones of tomorrow will be able to go further and have more autonomy than ever before, benefiting from network authentication services and information (such as coverage and SIM density maps) and harnessing further capabilities, like geo-fencing, network-based​ geolocation estimates, and weather inputs (so they can preemptively avoid adverse weather conditions).

Disrupting ó safely

With a wider scope of possibilities, though, two of the most important criteria for future drones to satisfy will be safety and security. Unmanned Traffic Management, bolstered by anonymized data, will be used to give drone navigators enhanced analytics to map out and avoid densely populated areas as well as maintain predictable performance and ensure a safer drone journey. When it comes to security, livestreaming drones will utilize end-to-end encryption between users and aerial vehicles, with the real-time footage able to be shared securely with multiple people via computer, mobile phone, or tablet simultaneously.

Toward a better tomorrow with drones

All in all, one thing is for sure: Drones will play an increasing role in our lives. As we work toward a future where drones can safely and effectively be controlled beyond the line of sight, companies will be able to streamline their operations and ensure the highest standards of safety for their staff. Livestreaming drone services ó such as that recently launched by Telia and Ericsson ONE ó will contribute to this, adding a whole new range of value to companies in ways that are not only more cost-effective and easier to deploy but also safer, simpler, and more environmentally friendly.
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