Verizon’s Skyward business unit and UPS Flight Forward have agreed to deliver retail products via drones using LTE and to test 5G integration in The Villages in Florida.
UPS Flight Forward has conducted more than 3,800 successful drone delivery flights since its certification by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2019. The company began testing cellular reliability and LTE performance “at altitude” last year, according to the press release.
5G Ultra Wideband can be a vital tool in the carrier’s expansion of drone delivery, Verizon says. It will help manage and support multiple drones that are dispatched from a single location and are in the air simultaneously.
“The low latency of 5G and edge compute is ideal for monitoring air traffic in and out of a busy logistics hub, especially those using mixed fleets of autonomous vehicles like drones, trucks, and planes,” Skyward President Mariah Scott said in a press release about the Verizon UPS drones deal. “This year, we’ll be taking the collaboration with UPS further by testing 5G Ultra Wideband integrations to connect the sky.”
The announcement was made at CES2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic gave drones a higher profile and additional use cases.
In June 2019, AT&T and Uber Elevate partnered to explore electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) and drones. The goal was to explore using LTE and 5G for cargo drones and air taxis.
Drones also excel in emergencies because they can go where it is difficult or unsafe for humans. In September of last year, Skyward — which was acquired by Verizon in 2017 — was granted a temporary waiver by the FAA to inspect critical infrastructure in and around the Big Hollow wildfire in Washington. The drones could be flown during the period of the waiver unless visibility was less than three miles.
A June 2019, survey from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) found that 76% of U.S. adults were unfazed by drone use by law enforcement, 71% were fine with construction companies using drones and 70% gave the nod to educational institutions.