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Bringing Drones Online: A Post-MWC Interview with Sven Juerss


On March 2, Microdrones’ Sven Juerss participated in the IDE International Drone Expo Summit at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain.  The conference brought together leaders in the international drone industry to discuss the future of bringing unmanned vehicles online.

Microdrones’ Sara Furlong talked to Sven to learn his thoughts on this important topic.

SARA:     Sven, MWC looks like it was a great event. Can you start by telling us about where drones fit into the topic of mobile technology?

SVEN:     It was a very good event! The drone summit brought together key stakeholders from many industry organizations to discuss mobile issues as well as “IoT” (Internet of Things). The drone summit was focused on discussions about bringing unmanned vehicles online and what action is needed for that to happen.

SARA:     Can you talk a little about why that is important?

SVEN:     Putting drones online is the clear future and it’s a very important step for two reasons. Number one is unmanned traffic management (UTM). Air traffic controllers need to be able to see our drones as a dot on their screens to secure the safety of the airspace. They should be able to tell its location and vision parameters and these things should be broadcast directly to them.

The second reason getting drones online is so important is to improve the user experience. Users need to be able to access and distribute payload data as quickly and conveniently as possible. Today we are limited in that regard by range of radio signals and the amount of onboard storage. We should get closer to the “clouds” and I don’t speak about the meteorological ones.

SARA:     So you’re saying that the drone should be online constantly to improve safety and usability, rather than connected intermittently by the user?

SVEN:     Exactly. The goal should be that the drone is online whenever it is operating. It should be streaming data constantly. Today it looks like infrastructure is not ready to cope with this demand well enough.

SARA:     How would that impact the user experience? For example, Microdrones UAS are often employed by those who use them for surveying, mapping, and inspection. How would being online impact them?

SVEN:     They would be able to achieve rapid, almost instantaneous mapping. While the drone is flying, they would be able to watch on their laptop or tablet as the map is coming together. If an engineer is doing an inspection and spots a problem, they would be able to instantly and directly access a high-resolution picture together with several other data/metadata and qualify or process these in real time.
But whatever the application, drones being online will allow the user to work in the moment, rather than taking the data to a different location and manipulating it after the fact. This is the vision of the future. It is currently happening in the military, but not in the civil world.

SARA:     Why is that exactly?

SVEN:     The first reason is cost — the technology is simply too costly for the average user at this point. But the second reason is that the network needs to be more powerful. The infrastructure is basically there; it just needs to be extended and become more reliable for our/drone application. That is where the telecom industry comes in — we need them to improve their networks. This is one thing that every conference participant agreed about.  Microdrones, Intel, Aibotix, DJI . . . we all had the same opinion.

SARA:     So is it up to the telecommunications industry to bring drones online?

SVEN:     That is one of the key points of discussion. Drone manufacturers want internet providers to take care of that and the providers are hoping the manufacturers will. Both have good reasons for arguing their side. Large providers have more resources to accomplish this while smaller manufacturers are more agile. What it is going to take is market demand, which will inevitably cause a push for someone to do what’s needed. At some point, it will happen. And this drone summit was a great way to kick off that conversation.

SARA:     It sounds like it was a very productive beginning to an important industry discussion.

SVEN:     It was! I have nothing but good things to say to the organizers of MWC. It was an extremely well-done event!