Nokia Networks and Middle Eastern operator du announced a joint initiative to deploy drones carrying smartphones with testing applications as a way to analyse the operator’s network performance.
The move, described in a statement as “another noteworthy step toward a smart city future”, saw the companies carry out the tests at Dubai International Stadium, using drones to gather network data based on network speed and to analyse efficient network optimisation actions.
Nokia Networks said automated testing and analysis through drones proved more efficient than traditional manual testing, as they can cover a wider surface area quicker.
Once the testing was completed, the data was collected automatically and sent to a server so it could be instantly processed at Nokia Networks’ Global Delivery Centre for immediate reporting, and advise on any actions needed to improve network performance.
According to the companies, drones can also be used to limit the number of times technicians need to climb up and down a telecoms tower, helping to supervise the quality of the initial installation by remote monitoring through wireless video stream.
During the tests, telco drones were also used for radio planning and Line of Sight (LoS) testing between radio towers.
“In the telecoms sector, certain operators have already embraced the use of drones for tower audits, and we are proud to be able to demonstrate multiple use cases of using drones with du in the UAE,” said Tony Awad, head of du customer team at Nokia Networks. “With the use of drones, we continue to bring innovation and automation into our service delivery to make our networks even more efficient and reliable.
Both Google and Facebook have touted the validity of using drones to provide internet connectivity in hard to reach places over the past year, and the internet giants have invested heavily in the initiative, with tests flights reportedly underway.
However, the idea that drones could deliver internet connectivity has been met with some scepticism, particularly by Alcatel-Lucent, after CTO Marcus Weldon said that while drones and balloons contain “fascinating research ideas”, they were “much more of a band aid solution”.
While Nokia Networks and du are testing connectivity of the operator’s network at this stage, Awad added that “drones are becoming a common phenomenon across the world and multiple sectors are embracing the benefits it can bring”.