The last decade has seen the commercial market for drones explode. The global drone market was estimated by PWC in 2016 to be worth just under £100 billion ($127bn) and that was 4 years ago, before the emergence of 5G technology.
Rapid advancements in the propulsion, navigation, sensory and battery systems that power drones has brought about the likes of drone delivery services, aerial photography, and a new way to conduct mountain search and rescue operations.
These varied examples of drone applications perfectly illustrates the real usefulness of drones. Key to their adoption has been lithium-ion batteries that charge rapidly and better navigation systems that enable pinpoint control.
However, as drones have been increasingly adopted, our data transfer needs have increased and 4G technology has been shown up to be less than ideal.
5G can theoretically reach speeds of 10 gigabits per second and it is expected to reliably offer 1 Gbit/s to 2 Gbit/s in a few years.
This is much faster than 4G. For drones, it means faster data transfer and data collection, enabling real-time analysis and access to big data files quickly.
However, while much has been made about the increased speed of 5G over 4G (it is up to 100 times faster than 4G) the real value for drones is the lower latency.
Latency is the lag that occurs when resources are requested over a network. For example, you might wish to check wind speed when flying, but when you request the data, it takes a few seconds to load. This delay is caused by latency across the network.
Latency for 4G is around 30 milliseconds, whereas with 5G it’s below 5 milliseconds. In a best case scenario, the latency can be 1 millisecond.
This latency improvement is massive for drones. It makes reliable live view and live streaming possible. Real-time footage becomes a reality. Load times become imperceptible and responsiveness increases between devices.
Another area where 5G benefits drones is the 5G New Radio interface, which enables a higher number of devices to be used in one area over a wave spectrum. This means more devices can be controlled to reduce congestion.
5G is an exciting technology but it is still in its infancy, and up until now drone architecture has been designed around 4G.
5G requires different components to handle the speed increase and demands placed over the network. Drones need a new architecture to transfer data in milliseconds and transmit high-definition footage in real-time.
In short, the current technology has to evolve.
Sourcing components like ESCs, flight controllers, GPS modules, receivers, antennas and batteries for 5G drones will become more challenging as more players in the market start to evolve their products to meet demand.
Day-to-day component sourcing will require good contacts in the industry just as it always has. But the race to 5G will accelerate demand and increase competition. This is where the value of an electronic components distributor like us comes in.
We can supply active, passive and electro-mechanical components, including 5G components, working directly for you to procure the best components at the lowest prices. If the future is 5G, we’ll help you meet it.