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First 5G Drone Test Site in the U.S. to Be Located in New York’s 50-Mile Drone Corridor

BY Zacc Dukowitz
6 October 2021

News recently broke that New Yorks’ 50-mile drone corridor will be the first FAA-designated UAS test site with a 5G network.

New York will be the first FAA-designated UAS test site with a bespoke 5G network. 5G holds the promise of unlocking scalable, economically viable drone operations and we are confident that our work in New York will help determine if 5G is a suitable solution for the UAS industry.

– Ken Stewart, CEO of NUAIR

Spearheading creation of the 5G test site is the MITRE Engenuity Open Generation 5G Consortium, a group of stakeholders in the rollout of 5G capabilities composed of academics, government liaisons, and private industry.

New York’s drone corridor runs between the cities of Syracuse and Rome and is led by a non-profit called NUAIR (Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, Inc.).

It was first unveiled in 2016, when it was announced as a testing ground for different types of drone operations—including UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management)—to help drones integrate safely into the national airspace. In total, New York State has invested $70 million in the advancement of the UAS industry in the state over the last five years.

Our drone corridor being selected for the launch of the nation’s first 5G unmanned aircraft systems testing range further positions our state—specifically the Central New York and the Mohawk Valley region—as the global leader in the market for this cutting-edge technology.

– Kathy Hochul, Governor of New York

Over the last year the drone industry has been buzzing with news about the potential of 5G. The Drone Racing League got on the 5G bandwagon not too long ago when it announced the Magenta drone, a 5G drone created in partnership with T-Mobile.

magenta-5g-drone
The Magenta Drone

The big potential benefits of 5G for drone operations are the potential to share bigger files at faster speeds and the ability to enhance live streaming, including the live streaming done during drone races.

But, despite the hype, 5G is still in its infancy, and it’s yet to be seen whether it will actually live up to its potential.

Can 5G Improve BVLOS Operations?

About 100 square miles within the New York drone corridor will be devoted to 5G long-range and BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) testing.

ny-5g-drone-corridor
Image source: NUAIR

The long-range flight paths that will be tested at the site include different types of landscape and topographies, such as over water, wilderness, and people, and near airports.

Throughout these tests operations will be aligned with the FAA’s Advisory and Rulemaking Committee’s UAS BVLOS ARC Charter.

The goal of the testing is to collect data about the dependability of 5G in different scenarios while rigorously testing drone operations in the low latency/high bandwidth of 5G.

The drone industry as a whole has been seeking a reliable FAA and FCC-approved communications network, and these tests are set to help determine if 5G is a suitable solution for the drone industry.

Press release from MITRE Enginuity

If successful, the testing could prove to the FAA and the FCC that 5G meets acceptable aviation safety requirements, like those required for a wired communication or point-to-point radio link.

Where 5G Might Make an Impact in the Drone Industry

5G is being pushed hard by some in the telecommunications industry as the future of drone operations, and the testing done at the new New York drone corridor could provide the evidence needed to have it approved for regular use.

Right now, WiFi and bluetooth are the go-to spectrums used for flying drones. But according to some in telecommunications, neither is reliable enough for long-range operations.

Here are the drone industries that could benefit from 5G, divided by the primary types of benefits 5G could help them realize.

Industries that Require Long-Range Flights

These industries could benefit from 5G because it has the potential to provide them with reliable, fast connectivity for operations that require long flights.

  • Agriculture—surveys of large tracts of farming land
  • Forest management—surveys of large areas of the forest
  • Utilities and infrastructure—inspections of assets that span large areas, such as railroads or power lines
  • Package delivery—deliveries made over long distances

Industries that Work with Large Amounts of Data

  • Drone racing—high-definition live streaming with minimal delays or latencies
  • Media and film—quickly transferring large amounts of data as well as live streaming that data with less latency and delays
  • Construction, Mining, Oil & Gas—really, any company that works with high volumes of drone data for inspections or mapping/surveying

Amid all the hype, it’s been hard to tell if 5G is just a buzzword or if it might actually provide real benefits for the drone industry.

The data collected at New York’s 5G testing site will help cut through the hype by providing real data and use cases for 5G. We’re excited to hear how the tests go and start seeing some real data from 5G drone operations.

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