Telecommunications company M1 Ltd. and the Air Traffic Management Research Institute (ATMRI) signed an MRU for a joint research center between Nanyan Technology University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). Researchers from the university will work on a project that uses existing mobile phone networks to track and control drones. The project will be led by Professor Low Kin Huat, an expert in robotics and UAS from NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Mohamed Faisal Bin Mohamed Salleh, ATMRI senior research fellow.
Researchers will map the cellular signal range of M1’s 4.5G Heterogeneous Network (HetNet). With the knowledge of this range in Singapore’s airspace, air traffic planners will know which routes are safe for unmanned aircraft. At the same time, drones could send real-time data and telemetry feeds during flight since their locations would be monitored over M1’s 4.5G HetNet.
Currently, drones offer wireless connectivity by using unlicensed spectrums such as 2.4 GHz band. However, this band is open to potential radio signal interference. The 4.5 HetNet provides secure mobile connectivity that allows drones to fly out of visual range in an urban environment.
“NTU Singapore is at the forefront in both autonomous vehicles as well as air traffic management research,” said NTU Singapore Professor Vu N. Duong, who serves as director of ATMRI. “We are working now to establish an air traffic system which can effectively control and regulate UAS traffic in congested airspace. By working with key industry partners like M1, we aim to translate our knowledge into practical applications beneficial to Singapore and other megacities.”
Previously, M1 and ATMRI completed successful trials in three different locations in Singapore using M1’s 4.5G HetNet. During these trials, the team was able to provide command, control and communication capabilities required for safe drone operations.