A test was carried out in Renfrew County, Canada, towards the back end of 2019 that saw cellular drones being tested against ambulances. The trials were carried out by rural emergency services over a distance of 4,000 km in Vancouver.

Up until now, the use of drones has mainly been in the consumer sector. But that could now be about to change on the back of advancements that are being made in cellular technology. The use of which, could result in the deployment of drones in mission-critical and industrial conditions.

If it happens, or perhaps, when it happens; it could significantly change everything. With cellular technology, drones could be used to remotely inspect vital infrastructures like bridges, buildings, dams, mobile phone towers, nuclear reactors, pipelines, power grids and stations, railways, and roads.

Using 5G network compatible drones for critical inspections

At present, these sorts of inspections are carried out by people, a process which is costly, slow, and sometimes dangerous. By linking drones to 5G networks, they would be capable of transmitting ultra high definition images in real-time at data speeds approximately 100 times faster than 4G connectivity.

Mission-critical healthcare applications

Another sector where cellular drones could make a profound difference to our lives is if they were to be used in mission-critical healthcare situations like medical emergencies and disaster relief. It is something that may be closer than you think.

In late Autumn last year, Ericsson took part in a trial in Renfrew County that pitted ground-based ambulances against drones carrying AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators). When a person has a cardiac incident, getting treatment to them in the fastest possible time is vital. Survival probability for victims of cardiac arrest decreases by 10% per minute if treatment is not at hand.

Cardiac arrest trials carried out in Renfrew, Canada

In simulated emergency calls, the task was to deliver AEDs to 20 remote locations where medical researchers stood waiting. On arrival of the equipment, they delivered a sequence of four shocks to test manakins. At each test site, the drone arrived between seven and fifteen minutes before the ambulance. Bearing in mind the 10% per minute deterioration mentioned above, that is hugely significant.

Limited only by the imagination

There are many other non-consumer related areas where drones could alter the landscape. They could be used for tracking armed shooters and identifying terrorist threats. They could be employed for sustainable agriculture, on things like identifying crops and trees in distress. The potential use of drones is limited only by the imagination.