Nokia partners with United Arab Emirates to develop UAE drone business

Dubai smart city
The UAE will be the first country in the world to allow the operation of drones by both businesses and government agencies in a managed environment.

Nokia and the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) are teaming up to develop an end-to-end drone ecosystem that will make the UAE the first country in the world to allow the operation of drones by both businesses and government agencies in a safe, secure and managed environment.

The project is part of an initiative by the GCAA to make Dubai one of the world's smartest cities by 2017 and will allow Dubai government security network operator Nedaa to develop a next-generation network for mission-critical and smart city services within the GCAA regulatory framework.

Nokia's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Traffic Management (UTM) concept, which is being developed to manage drones in and around cities, will be at the heart of the new ecosystem, coordinating interactions with people, manned aircraft and various connected objects. The Nokia UTM system will provide things like automated flight permissions, no-fly zone control and beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) capabilities that are critical for the safe operation of UAVs in densely populated urban areas. The ecosystem also serves as a testing ground for various applications of drone technology, which can be explored in a controlled environment.

"The UAE is committed to making Dubai the smartest city in the world, and UAVs are expected to play a critical role in this process by supporting a wide variety of smart city services,” Bernard Najm, head of the Middle East Market Unit at Nokia, said in a press release. “This collaboration with the GCAA, the first of its kind in the world, gives us a unique and extensive test bed where we can trial and refine our UAV Traffic Management system, and shape the future of UAV management overall. This is an exciting opportunity that builds on our strong relationship with the UAE to help facilitate its smart city journey."

The move follows a similar one in September when Nokia said it planned to leverage its expertise in LTE and 5G development for Europe’s first dedicated UAV testing facility at Twente Airport near Enshede in the Netherlands.

RELATED: Nokia to open drone testing facility in the Netherlands

In the United States, AT&T has been using drones to inspect cell sites and other network components, including at stadiums to enhance call and data quality before big events. The operator is conducting a trial with Qualcomm at one of its facilities in San Diego to evaluate network requirements in support of drone operations. AT&T wants to better understand not only how it can use drones internally but how drones externally can benefit from connectivity provided by AT&T. 

Verizon in October announced its Airborne LTE Operations (ALO) initiative and said it will launch a new suite of services as early as 2017 on its ThingSpace Internet of Things (IoT) platform to help developers and businesses create and manage a range of ALO-enabled applications. It's also offering a new device certification process to enable access to wireless connectivity for UAVs and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) on its LTE network. Verizon says it already has completed technical drone trials in various locations across the country.

The commercial sector—including agriculture, industrial inspection and professional videography applications—will account for more than 70 percent of all small unmanned aerial systems ecosystem revenues by 2025, according to ABI Research. Consumer drone revenues in 2025 are forecast to reach $4.6 billion.