By Sebastian Babiarz (Head of European Airspace Innovation for DroneUp)
Modern society’s unrelenting demand for efficiency is a catalyst for innovators to create technology that transforms how we live — and how we move. Smart mobility, an intelligent transport and mobility network, is one such innovation. By connecting different elements of technology and mobility, smart mobility transforms how society uses transportation infrastructure. Smart mobility technology reduces our carbon footprints and takes us to where we’re going more efficiently, safer, and with better air quality.
Technology empowers people to get more from their time, and we’ve gotten so used to speed and ease that any hour wasted is frustrating — and pricey. Traffic congestion costs Americans 34 hours and $121 billion each year, which means smarter transportation matters now more than ever. Drones are a game-changer for smart mobility because they make transportation faster, greener, and less resource-intensive than things like ride-sharing, autonomous vehicles, and rapid mass transit.
With nearly two decades of drone and telecom industry experience, I’ve seen how new technology, like drone innovation, improves lives. DroneUp’s flight services, for example, empower teams to work smarter, not harder. Professionals conduct faster-than-ever inspections for commercial real estate portfolios, infrastructure projects, and more, safely from the ground. With precise data at their fingertips and the ability to gather crucial information from difficult-to-reach locations, they lower their inspection risk, time, and cost while keeping projects on schedule.
Drones have already elevated the transportation industry, and we’re only harnessing a fraction of its potential. To reach groundbreaking efficiency, leaders across industries must collaborate to develop new ways to use drones at scale.
Bringing Near-Instant Deliveries Within Reach
In our connected world, we don’t need to go to stores to get what we need. Consumers now order products at the click of a button, and they expect speedy deliveries. Dedicated to a stellar customer experience, Walmart recently partnered with DroneUp to deliver its retail products to 4 million U.S. households across six states in as little as 30 minutes. Evident through successful DroneUp deliveries since launch, the partnership shows drones’ ability to push the boundaries of delivery. From a working parent stuck in traffic, to a sick child in need of medicine, deliveries powered by drones get people what they need faster and safer than ever.
This speed is essential, especially in times of emergency. When category 4 storm Hurricane Ian hit Florida in 2022, emergency crews and business owners used DroneUp’s aerial imaging services to get a broad view of their surroundings and act quickly and strategically.
End-to-end drone services provide transformative speed, and when leveraged at scale, they have the potential to change our delivery economy. While near-instant deliveries have become a viable reality, we can still do more. Industries must work together to scale drones and drive efficiencies that transform how our society operates.
Forging Smart Mobility’s Future through Interoperability
From disasters to inspections and beyond, sharing information quickly and reliably is essential, and mobile networks pose great potential in enabling drones to achieve this objective.
The mobile and drone communities, however, haven’t always worked together. The GSMA and the Global UTM Association saw tremendous opportunities to start a more fluid dialogue between the two industries and created the Aerial Connectivity Joint Activity (ACJA) in 2020. Both organizations work to further technology innovation through cross-industry collaboration. The ACJA furthers this effort by promoting information-sharing across the mobile and drone industries to forge a strong working relationship that allows innovation to flourish.
To achieve this goal, my fellow ACJA board members and I build avenues for the industries to work together, such as communication forums, alignment on mutually beneficial architectures, interfaces, and methods, and other key initiatives. This enhanced interoperability will allow mobile carriers’ robust ground-based networks to extend that much further to airborne users, offering major opportunities for drone operations.
Paving Smart Mobility’s Future
The timing couldn’t be better for a harmonious relationship between the mobile and drone industries, especially with recent innovations like 5G transforming connectivity and scalability. With lower latency, higher speed, and enormous capacity, 5G networks give drones faster, more reliable information and empower them to envision new use cases, like when DroneUp used T-Mobile’s 5G network to deliver cans of Red Bull to dirt bikers during the legendary Red Bull Rampage.
As drones bring new possibilities to the transportation industry, DroneUp’s appetite for innovation only gets stronger. We’re creating new ways for our customers to serve new markets, new volumes, and even new services. As our society continues prioritizing efficiency at all turns, smart mobility must keep up with the pace. Uniting the mobile and drone industries, the ACJA positions drones to deliver on that promise and create unmatched levels of efficiency that drive society forward.