Phone link plan for drone control

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Image: iStock | marekuliasz

Mobile phone network company Vodafone wants to develop a low altitude, air traffic control system for drones. The telecom company met regulators from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to discuss the proposal, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The single European Sky ATM research project (SESAR) reported this year there would be an estimated seven million private drones in Europe by 2050, and another 400,000 used in commerce and government. SESAR estimates a fleet of 100,000 delivery drones by 2050. The report also predicted about 20 per cent of flight time in controlled airspace would be remotely or optionally piloted by 2050.

The Financial Times reported that under the Vodafone proposal drone buyers would have to register and use a SIM card, as mobile phone buyers have to now. The SIM card would be the basis for ATC surveillance of the drone which could include geo-fences around defined no-go areas.

Vodafone is expanding from phone services into the so-called ‘internet of things’, that involves internet connections for machines, devices and objects, ‘turning them into “intelligent” assets that communicate with the world around them,’ in the words of the company’s web page. Vodafone already has 45 million SIM cards installed in devices other than phones, including cars, meters and tracking devices.

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