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Adrian Sanchez

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5G network from Deutsche Telekom gets autonomous delivery drones in the air

  • Telekom equips drone test site with local 5G network
  • Project consortium around South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences explores and tests delivery flights with 5G parcel drones
  • First deployment of new mobile 5G campus network solution for business customers
  • 5G mobile network enables greater reach and secure data communications for drone flights
  • Use for delivery of industrial components and pharmaceuticals planned
A flying drone in the sky transports a white package with a "T5G" label on it.

Deutsche Telekom gets autonomous delivery drones in the air with a 5G campus network in the South Westphalia region. © Deutsche Telekom

Deutsche Telekom is providing a 5G campus network for the "Drone4Parcel5G" research project in the South Westphalia region. The project aims to test the operations of autonomous delivery flights with 5G-connected parcel drones. The technology is intended to reduce road traffic and minimize delivery times in the future. To this end, Deutsche Telekom has equipped a test site in Rüthen (Soest district, North Rhine-Westphalia) with a special mobile 5G mobile communications container that will cover the area with the latest mobile communications standard throughout the duration of the project. This will enable researchers to test delivery drone flights in combination with 5G technology under real conditions. The drones can reliably transmit sensor, image and flight data via the 5G campus network. This short-term local 5G network is the first instance of Deutsche Telekom implementing the new business customer product " Campus Network Temporary" for a customer.

"The Drone4Parcel5G project demonstrates the enormous innovation potential of 5G for the future of logistics. In order to enable automated flying drones to carry out parcel deliveries under the highest security standards in the future, we are already today delivering full 5G performance with our network," said Hagen Rickmann, Managing Director for Business Customers at Telekom Deutschland GmbH. "With our new temporary 5G Campus network offering for business customers, we provide a time-flexible solution that is ideally suited for the drone flight trials."

5G provides basis for autonomous drone delivery service

Today, drones must still be controlled by a pilot on a line-of-sight basis. In the future, an autonomous drone delivery service via 5G could allow several drones to be coordinated and monitored simultaneously in real time via a central control station, beyond the line of sight. Here, 5G drones will autonomously bring goods from A to B, via optimized routes, reacting to obstacles in order to avoid collisions. A fleet of drones operated in this way massively increases the range and efficiency of drone flights. At the same time, autonomous drone operation imposes particularly high requirements in terms of security and stability of data transmission. The project in South Westphalia is therefore investigating both communication via 5G between drone and base station and from drone to drone.

"With high data transmission rates, low latency and higher network capacity, 5G as key technology provides the basis for a safe use of autonomous transport drones", says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Andreas Schwung from the University of Applied Sciences South Westphalia and head of the consortium "Drone4Parcel5G". "We are therefore delighted to have Deutsche Telekom, the leading 5G network provider and expert in campus networks, on board for our project."

Drone4Parcel5G: Research for the future of logistics 

The "Drone4Parcel5G" project, led by the South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences together with other partners from the region, will run until the end of 2023. The project will see the development of a system for planning and movement control of parcel drones. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia had provided funding of 1.6 million euros as part of the "5G.NRW" program. In the project, delivery by drone is to be tested for use-cases by pharmacies and in the industrial sector for the so-called C-parts management – for example, for the delivery of tools and metal goods in technical wholesaling or the delivery of medicines to rural regions. To this end, the drone manufacturer Third Element Aviation GmbH and KL-Group | Koerschulte + Werkverein, a wholesaler specializing in industrial and trade customers, are also part of the project.

5G-Lieferdrohnen_Thumb_01B

"With 5G mobile communications, we can bridge greater distances and completely disconnect the location of the pilot from the location of the drone. This opens up entirely new possibilities and fields of application for the operation of transport drones," says Marius Schröder, managing director of Third Element Aviation GmbH.

"Thanks to 5G and delivery drones, we will be independent of road traffic as well as traditional delivery routes and will have the last mile in our hands. This gives us the ability to deliver our goods directly to the customer – quickly, reliably and with the latest technology", says Norman Koerschulte, responsible for Digital Topics in the management of KL-Group.

"Campus network Temporary" provides short-term 5G upgrade

The "Campus Network Temporary" used for the first time in the delivery drone project makes it possible to cover a defined area with additional 5G connectivity flexibly and for a short period of time via Telekom's public network.  It combines the strengths of the public 5G network with the exclusivity of a virtual private network. If required, a certain safety-critical part of the data traffic is transmitted logically separated via a virtual private network within Telekom's locally reinforced public 5G network. This private data traffic can also be prioritized. This guarantees high security and maximized 5G availability for business-critical applications – such as for data communication between autonomous delivery drones.

Flexible solution: The 5G campus network out of the container

With the new campus solution, 5G network capacity can also be temporarily increased, for example, at (open air) events, construction sites or in development areas. To use the new Campus network product, a transportable mobile station including a mast and antenna technology is set up at the customer's site. Depending on requirements, there is a choice of different mobile communications containers with tower heights of between 10 and 30 meters. Deutsche Telekom takes care of the planning and permits as well as the installation and operation of the container mast. From ordering to handover to the customer, the network can be implemented within around 20 weeks. Further information for business customers is available at www.telekom.de/campus-netze

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