By bruchmann
26. January 2022

„The Chicken-and-Egg-Problem in Cellular Phone Networks – Is 5G/6G Technology Empowering Applications or is User Demand Driving Technology Development?”

AIRlabs Austria has hosted a workshop with experts from industry and research to analyse the opportunities and risks of 5G/6G technologies in the drone industry.  

The workshop was titled “The Chicken-and-Egg-Problem in Cellular Phone Networks – Is 5G/6G Technology Empowering Applications or is User Demand Driving Technology Development?” and the following experts were invited and discussed relevant current findings and experiences in the field of 5G/6G technology potential in the drone industry: 

  • Selene Horner, Head of IoT & Smart Services A1 Austria 
  • Andreas Kercek, Research Manager Lakeside Labs 
  • Herbert Mittermayr, Nokia Bell Labs Consulting 
  • Bernd Stockinger, CEO Citycom 
  • Alexander Sysoev, Managing Director Ericsson Austria 

On behalf of the AIRlabs Austria GmbH, Roswitha Wiedenhofer-Bornemann and Karl Fesl joined the expert talk from the management side, Holger Friehmelt participated as the Technical Scientific Director and was accompanied by Technical Project Manager Tom Bruchmann.  

We would like to thank the participants from our partners Nokia Solutions and Ericsson Austria for their support and sponsorship of this Expert Talk. We would also like to thank all participants from Citycom, Lakeside Labs and A1 for their commitment.

Drone communication and control require continuous, stable and fast connectivity to ensure a high level of reliability and safety. These technical specifications are necessary prerequisites for the use of 5G/6G technologies in safety-critical drone operations, such as Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) maneuvers.  

5G/6G enable the connectivity of a wide range of devices and therefore are an important tool to address drone communication, control, and data transmission issues. These technologies – as well as a stable data link – are an essential part of real-time decision-making, automated operations, secure onboard data storage or even autonomous operations. 

The participants of this expert workshop believe in a great B2B application potential of 5G/6G technologies in the drone industry. However, all experts agreed on the need to carry out pilot projects in order to pave the way for the real-life use of these technologies. Therefore, research aspects as well as use cases must be defined and investigated in advance. In order to maintain this high level of research cooperation, a collaborative industry and ecosystem approach has proven to be a promising method. 

In addition, our industry partners have expressed difficulties in the definition of explicit use cases of 5G in the drone business. This circumstance shows that developing and implementing 5G business cases is a strategic decision that carries risks but also great opportunities for success.

 It is expected that 5G will be established as the dominant mobile access technology in the next few years, whereas 6G represents the next generation. Our experts agree with each other that 6G will become a link between the physical, biological and digital worlds, in which intelligent machine communication is one of many possibilities. However, these technologies need to be further developed in order to utilize their full potential, especially in terms of improving efficiency and reducing cost per bits. Concepts such as cloud edge, nano cloud and edge computing – with the associated reallocation of data processing within user proximity – can also be applied in the field of drone research.  

Currently the technology and its capabilities are overshadowed by a low level of public awareness and the limitations to the application of 5G in the drone sector. Additionally, potential negative impacts of the technology must be examined as well, such as the environmental impact of data transmissions on a large scale. Nevertheless, direct and indirect benefits such as overall process optimization or the exchange of real-time information can be expected from the application of 5G. 

Possible difficulties in the operability of 5G communication networks in rural and alpine areas were also discussed. According to our experts, this is a matter of data traffic distribution and prioritization and therefore tied into the laws and regulations of network neutrality. A potential impact on radio communication using the C-band – which could interfere with air traffic during take-off and landing – is not expected to be of great relevance in Europe, as C-band frequencies are rarely used.

Finally, potential health effects of 5G/6G technologies on humans were discussed. The participants highlighted that no negative impacts could be identified in the studies conducted to date.  

In addition, the participating experts from Nokia and Ericsson have provided us with further informational roadmaps and papers on this topic, which are attached for the interested reader.  

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