Nokia to open drone testing facility in the Netherlands


Nokia is leveraging its expertise in LTE and 5G development to support Europe’s first dedicated testing facility for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, for traffic management.

The facility at Twente Airport near Enshede in the Netherlands will allow Nokia to develop and conduct trials of its UAV Traffic Management (UTM) system for the use of drones near urban areas, people, unmanned aircraft, other drones and “hundreds” of other objects, the company said.

In the U.S., Qualcomm is conducting tests with AT&T at a facility in San Diego, which includes some instructive real-world conditions, including commercial buildings and residential areas. It’s only three miles from Marine Corp Air Station Miramar, and military aircraft routinely fly over the company’s buildings, which is in restricted Class B airspace, so Qualcomm had to obtain all the proper certification and get authorization from federal regulators to perform tests at its campus. Currently, commercial drone operators in the U.S. generally must be able to see their drones with visual line of sight.

Nokia said its UTM system will provide flight automation, no-fly zone control and beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) capabilities that will be key for the safe operation of UAVs in densely populated cities as well as remote rural areas. Drones will be equipped with Nokia’s UTM modem, which consists of an LTE modem, GPS transceiver and other telemetry modules.

A Nokia UTM smartphone app, in conjunction with the UAV Traffic Management interface, will provide drone operators with real-time flight permissions, real-time no-fly zone information as well as information about local regulatory rules.

Nokia also noted that its UTM platform can be adapted to the individual regulatory requirements of different countries, potentially providing the basis for global standardization of such systems. Drones are expected to be increasingly used by wireless operators leading up to and in 5G.

"UAVs are rapidly becoming commonplace tools in many industries, enhancing safety, security, inspection, maintenance and many other activities,” Thorsten Robrecht, head of Advanced Mobile Networks Solutions at Nokia, said in a press release. “However, it is critical that they function faultlessly and safely in complex, real-world environments. This requires more than just a smart drone, but a system of intelligent traffic control that is thoroughly tested and fully developed. Nokia is the only communications vendor currently building such a system and we are working with regulators to achieve the necessary standardization."

Interestingly, this past May, Nokia launched the Ultra Compact Network, a 4G solution that can be carried by a drone and rapidly deployed to provide connectivity at high-traffic events, remote areas or when a macro network is compromised in an emergency situation.

For more:
- see the press release

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