Port surveillance to get 5G boost as trial involving drones begins

The one-year flight trial will start in August near Marina South Pier. PHOTO: AIRBUS

SINGAPORE - Drones will dot the skies above Singapore's southern coastal waters as part of a 5G trial to improve port surveillance.

The one-year flight trial, which will start in August near Marina South Pier, will test how Airbus drones can be remotely controlled over 5G mobile networks for the inspection and management of port incidents.

In a joint statement on Thursday (June 11), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and M1 announced the partnership with with aviation giant Airbus.

"We believe that 5G will sharpen Singapore's competitive advantage as a key trading and connectivity hub in the region and beyond," said IMDA chief executive Tan Kiat How, urging other enterprises big and small to join in building Singapore's 5G ecosystem.

"This collaboration will establish key cellular 5G performance... requirements to enable (unmanned aircraft) to safely integrate and fly in national airspace systems," said Airbus head of unmanned traffic management Isabel Del Pozo De Poza.

This localised 5G network to be set up by telco M1 is not part of Singapore's two planned nationwide networks that will blanket the entire island with 5G signals by 2025.

Singtel and a joint venture between StarHub and M1 have been awarded licences to build the two nationwide 5G networks.

5G networks promise lower latency and higher surfing speeds than their 4G predecessors. These advantages are expected to translate to more precise, safe and reliable communications for unmanned aircraft operations.

5G technologies also provides more precise real-time data on the location and position of drones than satellite technologies, which are more commonly used today.

In addition to the coastal trials, M1 and Airbus signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct 5G trials for inland areas to address the growing interest in unmanned aircraft systems such as drones from other industries.

Last month, IBM, Samsung and M1 announced a tie-up for a 5G smart manufacturing trial to look at ways the technology can improve the control of smart devices on factory floors such as robotic arms.

Singtel and M1 previously began testing the remote control of port equipment like cranes and driverless vehicles over a 5G connection with port operator PSA International last year.

IMDA launched a $40 million fund with the National Research Foundation last June to accelerate the rollout of 5G technology in six strategic clusters, including maritime operations.

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