Verizon wants to become the first carrier to use its 5G network to connect 1 million drone flights


Verizon believes drones present a growth opportunity for its budding 5G network and aims to be the first carrier to connect 1 million 5G drones flights. Verizon has targeted drone connectivity since October 2016, when it first announced its intention to sell wireless data plans for the emerging technology.

US non model aircraft registrations growing at a faster rate than originally anticipated

Just a few months later, the company deepened its commitment to the drones by purchasing drone operation company Skyward. Now, the telecom sees the segment as a potential core revenue stream for its 5G network, which is now available in 31 markets following the launch in April 2019. 

A 5G network like Verizon’s can boost the utility of drones in a number of ways:

  • 5G will enable drones to transmit high-definition footage in real-time. 5G’s millisecond latency and data speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G allows drones to transmit high-quality footage to operators on the ground. This enables drones to be used for functions like infrastructure safety inspections, where the drone operator must be able to see patches of rust or smalls cracks, for instance.
  • Drones with a 5G connection can use AI to more efficiently complete complicated tasks. The ability to quickly transmit data enables drones to be enhanced with AI and outperform drones with a 4G connection. For example, a drone with computer vision can rapidly scan items in a warehouse and recognize patterns, which can improve efficiency and free up human workers to do more complicated tasks. 
  • 5G’s low latency will enable precise tracking of drone fleets. As more drones begin to fly, stricter monitoring is needed to ensure they don’t drift into restricted areas or crash, causing property damage or injuries. 5G’s low latency can minimize lag so operators can avoid collisions and better coordinate takeoffs and landings.

Drones present telecoms with a data-intensive application to catalyze subscriptions for their 5G networks. Drone adoption is growing fast among consumers and businesses. In the US alone, the FAA expects almost 800,000 nonmodel aircraft to be registered in 2022, up from 277,000 at the end of 2018 — faster growth than initially anticipated.

Telecoms can take advantage by selling 5G data plans for drones and even forging exclusive deals with drone makers to develop 5G-ready drones, giving customers another way to engage with their 5G networks. Telecoms have been searching for alternative ways to connect users to their networks as global smartphone sales have been stagnating for almost two full years.

Given the significant investment telecoms are making in their 5G networks, providing a diversified pool of potential devices will allow them to capture the largest slice of consumers and more quickly recoup their investments.

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