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Telia Uses Drone to Extend 5G Network for Remote Forestry Machine Control
[Jun 18, 2024]


With the help of a drone equipped with its own portable mobile base station, a forestry machine has been remotely controlled via 5G in an area with limited connectivity. The test was carried out in a forest outside Västerås, central Sweden, as part of a research project involving Mittuniversitetet, Telia, Ericsson, Skogforsk, SCA, Volvo CE and Biometria, co-funded by Vinnova and the program for Advanced Digitalization.

The project group passed a milestone in November 2021 when it was able to remotely control a timber loader at SCA¡¯s Torsboda timber terminal outside Timrå in northern Sweden. After this success, the group set itself the challenge of using a drone equipped with its own portable mobile base station to extend 5G network coverage to an area where there would otherwise be none and to use that temporary connectivity to enable a forestry machine to be remotely controlled. At the beginning of May, successful tests were carried out in a forest in Virsbo outside Västerås, as Magnus Leonhardt, Head of Strategy and Innovation for Telia Sweden¡¯s B2B business, explains.

¡°We can now establish that it is possible to connect and remotely control large vehicles via a drone, which in practice acts as a base station in the mobile network,¡± Leonhardt says. ¡°This creates completely new and flexible opportunities to connect businesses that work in areas with insufficient network coverage. Apart from the forestry and agricultural industry, the technology can be used in disaster areas if normal mobile coverage is completely knocked out.¡±

After a basic technical briefing, the forestry machine was transported to a clear-cutting site where it was connected using 5G technology mounted on a drone. During the test, the drone was approximately 500 meters from the forestry machine but created a coverage area extending up to 3 kilometers. The driver of the forestry machine was in Skogforsk¡¯s remote control lab in Uppsala, roughly 80 kilometers away, says Petrus Jönsson, a researcher and deputy program manager at Skogforsk, who participated in the test.

¡°In this test, we chose to remotely control a forwarder in a clearing to assess the connection via the drone,¡± Jönsson says. ¡°In the next step, we want to test connecting and remotely controlling a soil preparation machine, which is a much heavier machine that operates in inaccessible terrain. The goal for us is to improve the working environment for the drivers, and soil preparation workers, in particular, operate in a very tough environment.¡±

The project aims to investigate how drone technology and 5G technology could enable remote areas around Sweden to be worked with remote-controlled vehicles. Among other things, Mittuniversitetet¡¯s researchers are studying the latency and reliability in data communication, which is very important when remotely controlling machinery, as Professor Mattias O¡¯Nils explains.

¡°We have collected data from the test with the drone and will now analyze and evaluate the results,¡± O¡¯Nils says. ¡°We will also do comparative studies with other types of connections such as Wi-Fi-based networks and explore further possibilities with 5G.¡±

Source: news.cision.com