Description of 5G!Drones use cases
5G!Drones main focus is on running UAV vertical use cases on top of 5G facilities. The objectives are: (i) to validate 5G KPIs; and (ii) to evaluate and validate the performance of different UAV vertical applications. 5G!Drones puts significant strain on the UAV requirements and aims at allowing UAV facilities (relying on ICT-17 facilities), where UAV vertical industry use cases can be rigorously tested and evolved, to improve products and services, and be ready for 5G.
Relying on the expertise from 5G!Drones vertical partners (Airbus, Hepta Airborne, CAFA Tech, Alerion, Unmanned Systems Limited, and Frequentis), and supporting industry partners (Nokia, Thales, Robots.Experts, DroneRadar, and Infolysis), several use cases have been identified which reflect key UAV applications covering civilian and commercial scenarios for which 5G is highly needed.
The four 5G!Drones use cases, which are implemented and tested using the 5G!Drones facilities (i.e., ICT-17 5G facilities and partners’ specific facilities), are presented below.
UC1: UAV Traffic Management
This use case will demonstrate a common functionality for all UAV applications, by providing the necessary safe and secure incorporation of drones into the air traffic. Indeed, the dramatic growth of UAVs over the past decade and the subsequent development of commercial drone activities especially at low altitude have posed the question of drones’ safe and secure flight operations in the face of increased air traffic. UTM (UAS Traffic Management) is expected to manage drone traffic in the lower altitudes of the airspace, providing a complete and comprehensive end-to-end service to accumulate real-time information of weather, airspace traffic, drone registration, and credentials of drone operators, among others.
The need for UTM systems has been driven by a number of factors such as the recent increase in the number of drones in the airspace, increasing involvement of different governments and emerging regulations, as well as collaboration of key stakeholders for the development of a working architecture. In the European Union, UTM systems (level U1: E-registration, E-Identification and Geo-awareness) will be mandatory in every EU country by 2019 and the next level U2 is expected to be enforced in two years timespan. Furthermore, public security and safety concerns, privacy concerns, and vulnerability to cyber-attacks are some of the major challenges to the adoption of the UAS traffic management systems. It should be noted that drone applications will require extremely low end-to-end latency, in the order of milliseconds, in order to operate in a safe and secure way.
UC2 : Public safety/saving lives
Natural and human-instigated disasters destroy environments and put public safety at risk. These situations include natural disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires, storms, landslides, Tsunami, CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive) related events and even terrorist attacks. In these situations, it is difficult and unsafe for relief workers to access areas and provide assistance. Furthermore, natural disasters can create physical disturbances that have the power to cause significant damage to cities and vulnerable communications equipment that is responsible for supporting these areas. Disruptions caused by physical damage to the communications equipment are likely to be incredibly expensive and time-consuming to restore, hindering the process of providing emergency response to those affected by the disaster. At the same time, communication networks tend to become congested with high levels of data traffic during disasters as those impacted seek to contact family and friends, and hundreds more upload pictures and videos of the damage, resulting in deterioration of network service, blocking of new connections, and loss in data transmission.
Thus, measuring the damage and providing relief in these situations must be swift and effective. UAVs can play a vital role here as they have the ability to take on roles where relief workers and manned vehicles fall short. First, UAVs can be used to take high-resolution images and perform 3D mapping in large-scale disasters such as earthquakes, flooding and wild fires to identify hotspot areas that have sustained the most damage and upload the data in real time to coordinate relief efforts. The use of UAVs for this purpose provides greater advantages in costs and in rapid response times than traditional methods. The use of UAVs is cheaper, faster, and safer than manned aircraft. In addition, UAVs can provide high-resolution images, which cannot be provided by satellites.
UAVs equipped with thermal cameras can be used to quickly locate victims of natural disasters regardless of the time of the day (especially during night time operations). A swarm of UAVs can cover more ground quickly and efficiently. In addition, HD live stream can be transmitted to a larger monitor for easier spotting of subjects in real-time. This allows pilots or command crews to guide rescue teams to the precise location of their subjects, and the aerial view aids in steering those crews around any obstacles or hazards that may be in their path. Once a subject has been spotted (or possibly spotted), zoom cameras can be used to check on their well-being to analyse the severity of the rescue and make sure rescue teams have the equipment necessary to get their subject back safely.
UC3: Situation awareness
The common ground in the situation awareness scenarios that 5G!Drones will trial is their relevance with the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the technologies behind the 21st century disruptive innovations, such as smart city and smart agriculture. Equipping drones with IoT devices allows for offering new types of services that can be delivered only from the sky. Depending on the target objectives, different IoT devices could be considered onboard the drones. This includes HD camera, gas sensor, humidity/temperature sensor, etc. Moreover, while UAVs could be deployed for a specific mission (e.g., mail delivery), the on-board IoT devices would allow providing added value services, simultaneously to the drones’ original tasks. This creates a novel ecosystem that supports IoT in the sky.
In a similar spirit, environmental monitoring or smart agriculture scenarios involve remote inspection and potentially the deployment of a large number of sensors. The collection of sensor readings by physical site inspection is a time-consuming task, while if sensors are equipped with networking capabilities for automatic transmission of their readings over a (wireless) network, the radio and core network segments may be put under significant strain, especially if the density of sensors is large and network capacity is scarce.
In the context of situation awareness, we can identify three main scenarios with different network requirements. The first scenario focuses on infrastructure inspection, where the sensing devices are onboard and require the generation and transmission of large volumes of data, thus requiring a high-bandwidth link. The second scenario involves the use of UAVs to assist in the collection and relaying of data from sensing devices with communication capabilities deployed on the ground, where the challenge is to handle the massive amount of terminal devices. The third scenario focuses on location services, where use of global navigation is not applicable, such as indoors and in tunnels.
UC4: Connectivity during crowded events
During crowded events, such as football games, public demonstrations, and political protests, cellular networks face an extremely high demand for communication capacity during the event. This results in deteriorated network service with dropped calls and degraded Internet connectivity. Although telecommunication companies have deployed temporary solutions, such as portable base stations called Cells on Wheels (COWs) for increasing communication capacity and free Wi-Fi access points for offloading Internet traffic from cellular base stations, crowded events remain a major challenge for cellular network operators.
Using an on-demand swarm of UAVs equipped with 5G small cells can solve this challenge by providing better coverage resulting in fewer dropped calls and better Internet connectivity to people attending the events. Since in this use case drones are flying over a crowded area, reliable control of drones (i.e., flying capabilities and residual battery life) is needed.