Impeccable network reliability will be the most imperative factor in making air taxis and cargo drones a reality in the near future according to industry experts.
With several big players in the fray communication giant AT&T announced it is teaming up with Uber to figure how wireless networks will play a role in next-gen Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing vehicles (eVTOLS), as well as enterprise drones used for cargo transport. The companies aim to explore how LTE and 5G particularly will find use in both applications.
According to Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs, and chief technology officer, “We’re in the very earliest stages of seeing what 5G can do to augment next-generation air travel, but we’re excited for the possibilities,” he further added, “Ridesharing services were one of the defining mobile applications of the 4G era. Air taxis and other new air vehicles could well eventually become a signature use case for 5G.”
The partnership supports the efforts of Elevate, Uber’s air mobility unit. The multi-phase collaboration is testing ways in which operational systems communications networks can enhance safety and reliability for aerial ridesharing and cargo delivery. Anyone who’s flaunted FAA regulations and tried to get the last few seconds of service in an airplane will agree that the most prominent challenge most noticeable about eVTOLS currently is that wireless networks are not built to extend very high into the sky.
Working to address this issue, the first phase of the collaboration will first focus on the nuts and bolts of keeping piloted aircraft connected to 4G and 5G networks at low altitudes and determining existing boundaries. According to AT&T, future phases could include edge computing and network slicing projects to further enable dedicated and reliable connectivity.
Dr. Tom Prevot, Director of Engineering for Airspace Systems at Uber said, “AT&T has already made important strides in pioneering connectivity capabilities above 500 feet in urban settings and we look forward to working with them on the next generation of breakthroughs.”
Uber is looking to launch its aerial ridesharing service in 2023 with commercial flight operations in Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and an international city to-be-announced at Uber Elevate Summit 2019. The Uber Elevate Summit convenes leaders from across academia, industry, government, policy, and technology for a 2-day immersive event held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. AT&T expects to have nationwide 5G sub-6Ghz service in first half- 2020.
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