Qualcomm lets dedicated drone platform fly - Mobile World Live

Qualcomm lets dedicated drone platform fly

17 AUG 2021

Qualcomm launched a purpose-built chipset for drone development, building on autonomous flight capabilities it produced for a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory robotic helicopter created for a mission to Mars.

The chip company issued a statement claiming the RB5 5G Platform is the first drone system combining 5G and AI. It explained the mobile technology was critical for high-bandwidth, low-latency connections to edge servers, with AI allowing developers to create their own algorithms to process images collected by the aircraft.

AI is also needed for autonomous flight outside pilots’ line of sight.

To cater for drones operating beyond the range of GPS, the platform includes Visual Inertial Odometry technology, which uses cameras and AI to navigate.

Qualcomm will market the platform to companies producing drones for specific use cases.

Susan Polizzotto, staff manager of IoT product marketing at Qualcomm Technologies, stated the “the heart of the drone” will be its purpose-built QRB5165 processor. The platform also includes 5G and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, a GPU, secure processing unit and eight cameras, one of which is 8K video compatible.

Many of the images can be processed and analysed on the drone itself, saving the expense and time associated with sending data to the cloud.

The entire platform including reference design and developer kit will be offered as a unit until Q4, at which time Qualcomm expects to offer some components individually.

Polizzotto said the sectors creating the highest demand for drone images are news media, public safety, delivery services, agriculture and critical infrastructure inspection.

Operator interest
Qualcomm is working with Verizon to complete network testing of the RB5 5G Platform and expects the operator to offer it through its Thingspace IoT unit.

Verizon has been investing in its Skyward drone management business and is exploring public safety applications.

AT&T noted synergies between the platform and 5G.

Kevin Hetrick, AT&T VP of wireless radio access, construction and engineering, stated the platform could enable delivery, inspections, and search and rescue missions.

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Martha DeGrasse

Freelance tech journalist Martha DeGrasse (@mardegrasse) is delighted to be contributing to Mobile World Live. Martha has written for a number of telecom and wireless publications, and was a writer, editor and video producer at RCR Wireless News for almost...

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