AI, 5G, MEC and more: New technology is fueling the future of drone delivery.

There is a drone hangar behind this ceiling. A drone takes off, hovers over the conveyor belt, grabs your package and softly hums the hangar door. The drone navigates past others of its kind and past telephone poles or other obstacles and gently places your package on your entrance path or balcony.

Much of what was described above is possible today – only to a limited extent. But things get a lot more complicated on a scale. Orchestrating autonomous drone fleets requires tightly integrated technologies and systems that enable drones to detect and respond to obstacles and each other in near real time. This requires networks that can transport huge amounts of data almost in real time. To do this, this computing capacity must be outsourced to the edge of the network. In short, it requires Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and 5G.

Bring computing power within reach of the robots

MEC is a way of building up computing and storage resources on the edge of the network yourself. It comes both publicly and privately Versions, and Verizon partnered with Amazon® Wavelength to create Amazon web services® Computing and storage power at the edge of Verizon’s 5G ultra wideband network.

Why is it important for your packages to be delivered? Because MEC can help drive both autonomous robots (as we will show later) and so-called Robotic Process Automation (RPA). While RPA sounds similar, it actually describes the use of software-based “robots” to complete tasks that would require valuable time on employees. For example, processing orders, checking inventory, and creating shipping instructions could be automated so that people can help more customers or be more creative.

Many of the actions that take place within a supply chain or order fulfillment process can increasingly be performed by RPA. According to Gartner, 80% of financial companies have implemented or are considering RPA.2 Logistics companies have been slower to adopt RPA, but that is likely to change soon.3rd

While many RPA instances today work without MEC to be effective, RPA must have access to significant computing resources. And while RPA operates in the world of software, these software systems will interact with autonomous robots and other fast-moving systems as part of fulfillment, which means that RPA must also react quickly. RPA systems benefit from the fact that the computing power takes place at the edge of the network – not in remote cloud data centers.

Of course, autonomous mobile robots could also benefit from MEC – which is why Verizon announced his intention, incubed. to acquire IT, a fleet management platform for AMRs. With MEC, data-intensive processes are relocated to the mobile edge, closer to the location where the storage robots are used.

Drones help work independently

Current FAA regulations prohibit flying drones out of sight of their operators, but companies like Skyward, a Verizon company, prepare for a future when Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight is permitted. For the BVLOS flight, both the connection between the drone and the operator and the ability of the drone to operate autonomously are decisive.

In the near future, human operators need or want to stay connected to distant drones. Verizon and Skyward worked on connected drones on Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Since latency can make a huge difference in remote control – which should be done as close as possible in real time – a low-latency direct connection, such as is available over 5G, will be critical once flights are out of line of sight.

Switching from a drone to a fleet

The challenges of autonomous drone flight become even more apparent when operating drones on a large scale. With a drone fleet, operators need excellent Universal Traffic Management (UTM). This includes tracking drone locations and supporting communication with each other and with the operator.

Connecting drones to the wireless network makes it easy to securely integrate them into the National Airspace System, a requirement for commercial drone delivery and many other use cases.

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