Mobile phone operator Vodafone has announced trials of the world’s first air traffic control drone tracking and safety technology.
The company’s new system is integrated with 4G Internet of Things (IoT) technology to protect aircraft from catastrophic accidents as well as prevent inadvertent or criminal drone incursions at sensitive locations such as airports, prisons and hospitals.
Vodafone explained that commercial civilian drones are too small to be tracked by conventional radar and present a serious risk to pilots worldwide, particularly in the immediate vicinity of airfields and airports.
The risk of operating drones, which are being increasingly deployed for criminal purposes such as drug smuggling and delivering contraband to prisoners, is growing at an exponential rate.
Analysis from the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) project indicates that by 2050 drones will log more than 250 million flying hours per year over densely populated areas of the European Union, seven times the cumulative annual flying hours of conventional crewed aircraft.
The Vodafone IoT drone tracking and safety technology trials support the objectives of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), with whom Vodafone has collaborated. EASA is currently developing new pan-European rules to regulate the operation of drones.
The new technology developed by Vodafone also enhances the European Union’s potential to become the centre of global innovation in drone technology in line with the European Commission’s “U-space” vision for innovative and safe drone operations.