Vodafone has completed the UK’s first drone delivery over a 4G mobile network.
The drone is the first of its kind to be built and flown in the UK and harnesses the power of Vodafone’s network via a portable 4G router, where previously drones have used a radio link.
The 4G network means the drones can be monitored in real time, reducing the need for them to be flown in the pilot’s line of sight.
Vodafone was able to complete the delivery due to the strength of its 4G network, which covers 99 per cent of the UK population.
In the future, drone delivery over a mobile network could be used to drop vital supplies into hard to reach places.
The introduction of 5G will allow for drones to be navigated more responsively, which allows them to be used in densely populated areas, essential to avoid buildings in built-up areas.
Vodafone’s specially adapted drone was made to look like a twinkling Santa sleigh and carried festive treats to Portland Bill Coastwatch, which is located on one of the most southerly points of the UK and is manned by 75 volunteers.
Around 76,000 drones are expected to be in British skies by 2030, creating some 628,000 jobs in deliveries and medical aid drops, construction site safety checks and environmental monitoring.
Vodafone is working on various drone projects including trials of the world’s first air traffic control drone tracking and safety technology – using 4G Internet of Things (IoT) to protect aircraft from accidents, as well as to prevent unauthorised use of drones at sensitive locations such as airports, prisons and hospitals.
“Technology plays an increasingly important role in connecting people and businesses over Christmas,” said Anne Sheehan, enterprise director, Vodafone Business.
“Flying a drone over 4G for the first time gives us a glimpse into the future; 4G or 5G-enabled drones will be used in a range of sectors, from agriculture and retail to construction and energy.”