Vodafone to trial drone air traffic control system

Telecoms giant Vodafone has announced trials of an air traffic control system for drones. The company is using its 4G mobile network and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to help prevent accidents, and avoid illegal incursions. 

Figuring out how to integrate drones into commercial and civilian airspace is a technical challenge that is being tackled on both sides of the Atlantic. In December, the US’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a report outlining the views of various industry stakeholders on how to track and identify flying robots. In Europe, similar discussions are underway.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is currently developing a framework to regulate the operation of drones as part of its U-Space initiative.

Read more: MIT’s NanoMap helps drones to navigate safely at high speed

Vodafone’s radio positioning system

Vodafone claims that it has developed “the world’s first Radio Positioning System (RPS) for drones”. The system relies on a 4G modem and SIM embedded within each drone. The result allows authorities to track and identify each drone in real time.

Vodafone says that the 4G-enabled system allows for beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) control by the operator, which greatly reduces the risk of accidental incursions when operators lose sight of their drones.

Geofencing technology can also be applied to force drones to land automatically or return to the operator if they stray too close to airports, prisons, or major events.

However, both BLOS flight and geofencing are already enabled and enforced, respectively, by drone-industry leader, DJI.

Read more: US Army grounds DJI drones over cyber vulnerabilities

Intervention and innovation

Most professional-level drones have a working range in excess of three miles, although regulations on both sides of the Atlantic forbid flights of that range without a waiver.

In theory, Vodafone’s 4G network could greatly extend that range. A recent trial in Spain saw the company fly a 1.3 metre wingspan, 2kg X-UAV along a 32km course near Seville. The drone transmitted a live HD video feed and flight data, including speed, RPS location, and GPS coordinates.

Notably, Vodafone’s system enables emergency remote intervention. This would give authorities the power to override a drone operator’s control should the aircraft be deemed a risk.

Vodafone Group CTO Johan Wibergh, said: “This groundbreaking innovation by Vodafone will help to ensure the skies stay safe as drones become ubiquitous, everywhere.”

Deputy director general of the European Commission, Matthew Baldwin, said: “The Commission supports all trials aimed at realising our U-space vision for safe commercial drone operations in the EU. There is a growing network of demonstrations and projects across the EU. We look forward to hearing the results of Vodafone’s work.”

Further trials of the technology are scheduled in Spain and Germany throughout 2018. The intention is for the company’s drone-tracking and safety technology to be available for commercial use from 2019.

Internet of Business says

Any concerted attempt to make our skies safer by integrating drones with traditional air traffic is welcome. Vodafone’s technology is bold, but innovation and implementation are very different things.

Chinese drone giant DJI has a massive hold over the hardware market for both commercial and ‘enthusiast’ drones, so any serious attempt at an unmanned aircraft tracking system will need to have DJI onboard, particularly if it requires modifications to the hardware (as Vodafone’s Sim-enabled solution does). On top of that, DJI already has its own technology for tracking and identifying drones: Aeroscope.

Vodafone’s plan to allow emergency intervention mid-flight is likely to concern many end users, even if our often-conservative airspace regulators may feel more comfortable with such a hands-on solution. However, until countries such as the US and the UK make greater efforts to integrate unmanned air traffic with traditional flight at both strategic and operational level, the market will be forced to invent its own piecemeal solutions.

In the UK, for example, the Aerospace Technology Institute is responsible for doling out government cash to the aerospace sector. There is currently no panel within the organisation dedicated to autonomous systems.

The post Vodafone to trial drone air traffic control system appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

Google Maps for iOS Gains Quick-Access Traffic, Transit, and Local Info Tabs

Google has updated its iOS Maps app with three new quick-access options that Android users have had access to for over a year now. The new tabs sit across the bottom of the home screen and are called Explore, Driving, and Transit.

Swiping up on the shortcuts reveals further details. For example, in Explore users can find a description of the local area, dining choices, and options to search for gas stations, ATMs, convenience stores, drug stores, and other amenities.

The driving tab provides a traffic summary for the area, including information on possible delays that might add time onto a commute. This tab will also include current ETAs for the user’s home and work addresses if they are saved in the app’s settings. Finally, the transit tab offers estimated bus and train schedules at stations in the vicinity.

Google Maps can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

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Google Maps for iOS gains quick access tabs with info on nearby locations, traffic, and transit

Google Maps iOS explore tab

Apple Maps has definitely improved in the years since its launch, but many iOS users still rely on Google Maps to help them get around. Today Google announced a new feature for those folks.

Google is now rolling out a new section in Google Maps for iOS that’ll help you get more info about what’s around you. Swipe up from the bottom of the app and you’ll see three tabs — the explore tab, the driving tab, and the transit tab — that’ll help you do things like find a meal nearby or catch a bus.

This feature rolled out on Google Maps for Android last year, and it’s good to see it coming to iOS as well. With it, you can quickly find info about what’s around you, including restaurants and traffic, without having to tap on a bunch of places or change to a different part of Google Maps.

If you use Google Maps for iOS, keep an eye out for this feature the next time you load up the app.

Google Maps iOS traffic, transit tabs

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Google Maps for iOS adds easy access to traffic and transit info

Over a year ago, Google updated its Maps app for Android, making it easier for users to search for restaurants, check out nearby traffic and find public transit schedules. Today, that update is now available for iOS users. With the update, Google Map…
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Google is replacing Facebook’s traffic to publishers

New data from Chartbeat show the exact numbers.

Google’s increased traffic to publishers is replacing the traffic publishers have lost from Facebook, according to new data from Chartbeat.

While Facebook has been tinkering with its algorithm to prioritize posts from friends and family over publishers, more publishers have been signing up for the Google publishing format launched in 2015 known as Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP hosts publishers’ content directly on Google’s servers so it loads faster for mobile users.

During its developer conference this week, Google announced that 31 million websites are using AMP, up 25 percent since October. Google says these fast-loading mobile webpages keep people from abandoning searches and by extension drive more traffic to websites.

The result is that in the first week of February, Google sent 466 million more pageviews to publishers — nearly 40 percent more — than it did in January 2017. Those pageviews came predominantly from mobile and AMP. Meanwhile, Facebook sent 200 million fewer, or 20 percent less. That’s according to Chartbeat, a publisher analytics company whose clients include the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post and ESPN. Chartbeat says that the composition of its network didn’t materially change in that time.

Last year, we published a similar dataset from digital analytics company Parse.ly, which showed that Google had again become the main source of referral traffic to publishers. Facebook first beat out longtime referral champ Google in 2015.

Referral traffic made up 47 percent of publisher traffic so far this year, according to Chartbeat, with Google and Facebook accounting for most of it.

You can expect Google’s referral traffic to publishers to increase. At the developer conference, Google rolled out AMP for email and AMP Stories, Google’s answer to Snapchat and Instagram Stories that will appear in your search results.


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