Successful cross border Drone flight Latvia to Estonia by Latvian Mobile Telephone (Latvijas Mobilais Telefons)

SOURCE LMT on September 2, LMT conducted one of the world’s first fully remotely controlled drone cross-border flights out of sight, where a connection to the mobile communication network was used to control the drone.

 The drone crossed the Latvian-Estonian border, changing mobile operators, but the pilot did not lose control of the drone’s control.

Remote drone flights are currently not widespread, as safety regulations stipulate that drones can only be piloted in direct view. 

In certain cases, such as for research purposes, such as this time, a high-risk flight permit may be obtained. However, the delivery of consignments by drone, the inspection of difficult-to-walk areas and the urgent delivery of medicines or even donor organs to patients is the future that the industry is currently working on. The connection of the mobile communication network would allow to increase the safety of such out-of-sight drone flights, and LMT is researching such solutions together with the Latvian company SPH Engineering and the state agency “Civil Aviation Agency” (CAA).

“So far, most drone solutions are based on WiFi communications or the use of other drone control frequencies. Unlike a mobile network, they have a limited range. With good air coverage, the mobile network is able to provide continuous communication with the drone throughout the flight, which significantly improves safety. Latvia has good work in both drone technologies and the development of the mobile communication network, and this advantage must be used to create high value-added solutions for both Latvians and exports, ”explains Ingmārs PÅ«Ä·is, LMT Vice President.

Previous tests performed by LMT in Latvia show that the signal strength of the mobile communication network is even better in some places in the air than on the ground, where it is disturbed by obstacles such as thick walls and trees. In turn, in this flight from Latvia to Estonia, it was possible to test how it is possible to provide an international drone flight in the mobile communication network when switching from one operator’s network to another.

The first cross-border flight of the drone started on the Latvian side, the drone took off near Ainaži, but ended with a landing on the outskirts of Ikla in Estonia. The total flight length has reached 8 kilometers. A multi-rotor drone has taken off in the air, adapted to the possibilities of remote control. LMT together with the company SPH-engineering developed a prototype device that is mounted on a drone and connected to its control unit. This device is equipped with two SIM cards to ensure a continuous connection of the communication channel to the drone and minimize the risks at the border crossing when it is necessary to change the mobile network operator from the LMT network in Latvia to the Estonian operator network.

‘In order to conduct such a remote flight outside the pilot’s line of sight, it is essential to be able to communicate with the drone and send commands to it during any phase of the flight. That is why a stable, fast and reliable mobile network is essential. In addition, control software and a control center solution are required to enable the pilot to operate comfortably during the flight. We used our own drone control software UgCS created in Latvia. An important precondition for such flights is also the assessment of land and air risks and the permission of the CAA not only from Latvia, but also from Estonia, ”describes Ingmārs PÅ«Ä·is, Vice President of LMT.

In order to develop drone innovations in Latvia, LMT together with partners from other countries also participates in the European drone ecosystem development project COMP4DRONES. LMT is also a member of the global unmanned aircraft traffic management association GUTMA and participates in the development of GSMA drone solutions of the international mobile communication association.

Images and quotes courtesy LMT

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