Lucid Drone

Verizon Public Sector has provided an update on its collaboration with two parts of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) that aim to enhance the functionality of drones via use of the carrier’s 5G mobile edge compute (MEC) technology.

The two organizations are the National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation (NCCHI) and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS). The long term goal of Verizon and the VHA is to use 5G MEC and drones to improve public safety and efficiency.

The research and testing focuses on curation of advanced sensor-enabled drones, technical integrations and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-compliant pilot training. Verizon and VHA are evaluating the drones’ use in search and rescue and finding patients who have run away.

Benefits of drone use in emergency scenarios include improved situational awareness, strategic coordination and improved response times. In routine situations, drones can proactively monitor vital hospital infrastructure, according to Thomas Osborne, Director of the National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation (NCCHI) and Chief Medical Informatics.

“While some continue to talk about the promise of 5G, Verizon is working with strategic partners like VHA to bring the technology to life,” Joel Daniels, the 5G Healthcare Innovation and Enterprise Solutions Program Lead for the VA on the Verizon Public Sector team said in a press release. “This demonstration at the VA’s campus in Palo Alto is indicative of the innovative products and technologies we are bringing to market, in this case helping VA leaders meet the strategic objectives that make up their 5G strategy.”

The VHA and Verizon hope to partner with other agencies and to include enhancements such as autonomous operations capabilities and non-line of sight operations.

Verizon’s interest in drones dates back at least five years. In February, 2017, Verizon Ventures, the carrier’s venture capital arm, acquired Skyward, a firm that specialized in drone operation management.

Another application involving drones and MEC was announced earlier this year when Verizon said that it was working with the Caltech Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST) to test ways to integrate 5G Ultra Wideband, MEC and artificial intelligence. The goal was to interpret data from weather drones in near real time.

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