Using high-speed low-earth orbit satellite connectivity from Vocus Satellite – Starlink, the Australian-made drone acts as a mobile tower in the sky, providing connectivity across an area up to 28 square kilometres, while being able to fly for an indefinite period thanks to its ground-based power supply.
The heavy-lift drone can carry up to 15kg, hovering in the air with payloads that can include 4G/5G tower equipment, P25 two-way radio equipment and bright floodlights or cameras. This flexibility enables the drone to provide critical support to emergency services during rescue and recovery situations.
For example, should a person be lost in a rugged mountainous region with no reception, first responders, in collaboration with the person’s mobile carrier, could use the drone to establish a new coverage zone to make contact with the missing person. Likewise, the drone can serve as an airborne mobile tower in a natural disaster situation where mobile towers may have been disrupted or damaged.
Challenge Networks, the Vocus company that specialises in building private 4G/5G networks, designed the solution after observing how low-earth orbit satellite connectivity, ground based power, heavy lift drones and compact mobile network equipment could be brought together to solve a significant problem. The solution includes XM2’s Australian-designed XTD-120 Tether Drone, powered by an XM2 EON800 power system.
The 7NEWS report depicts capabilities of the drone solution which are still subject to regulatory and carrier approval.
Emergency Services Organisations recently had the opportunity to test the solution during a demonstration at a NSW Rural Fire Service base in Bimbimbie. The demonstration, led by the NSW Telco Authority's Next Generation Digital Connectivity initiative, allowed them to experience how the drone can provide critical communication services during natural disasters, especially where standard mobile networks have been disrupted.
“This is an example of how Vocus is using its strength in satellite technology, and Challenge Networks’ expertise in wireless and systems integration to deliver a brilliantly simple solution for a particularly Australian challenge,” said Ashley Neale, Development Manager Space and Satellite, Vocus.