Food delivery, crime-fighting drones coming soon

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Drone delivery is the next frontier for the food delivery and law enforcement industries, with practical use cases across the globe expected to gain traction within the next 12 to 18 months, enabled by 5G deployments.

This was the word from Todd Ashton, VP and head of Ericsson South and East Africa, speaking yesterday at the Ericsson Mobility Webinar.

Providing a global landscape of 5G and Ericsson’s Mobility Report, Ashton highlighted the fundamental need for good connectivity as a cornerstone to cater for the increased connectivity uptake across the globe, as the demand for capacity and coverage of cellular networks continues to grow.

Referencing Ericsson’s Mobility Report,he explained that as 5G deployment increases across the globe, the fifth-generation network is no longer just a novelty − instead it is entering the next phase, when many new devices and end-user applications make the most out of the technological benefits it provides, while communications service providers worldwide continue the build-out of 5G.

By the end of this year, over one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, will live in 5G coverage areas, he pointed out.

“5G is expected to enable mission-critical networks, decrease in latency and increase in capacity, and bring out great enhancements in network improvements. In addition to enabling reliable connections, we can expect new applications to come from 5G, including food delivery services and crime-fighting drones, drones being deployed during certain emergencies such as flying a drone over a fire scene to provide real-time videos of what’s happening,” noted Ashton.

Looking at the 5G rollout that has already happened in countries like China, the US and South Korea, adoption has been faster than initially expected, and is forecast to accelerate even faster than 4G, he pointed out.

This is due to regulators working hard to get the spectrum required for 5G capacity and because 5G devices are expected to become more affordable over time.

“2021 is going to be a massive year for 5G; I believe we are going to see 5G rollout faster than what we are currently predicting, even in Africa.

“If you look at the food delivery services in the United Arab Emirates, in the not so-distance- future we could see drones being used in that space, especially for delivering food to areas where it’s not possible to drive. In another 12 to 18 months or so, this will be possible and the forerunners who are likely to deploy the early applications will be the US, Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, Singapore and Dubai, among others,” said Ashton.

While several global firms such as Amazon, Flytrex and Uber Eats have been investing in pilot projects for drone delivery over the past few years, strict regulatory requirements, safety issues and logistics continue to prevent their implementation.

In terms of fighting crime, several police stations in the US are running tests to turn drones into crime-fighting devices.

Locally, government plans to deploy surveillance drones along parts of the Beitbridge border post, to address security challenges posed by border-jumpers and smugglers.

In Cape Town, due to the spate of violent attacks on tourists on Table Mountain, the Department of Tourism last year announced plans to deploy drones as well as install cameras to ensure the safety of those visiting the tourist site.

In terms of 5G subscriptions, a total of 220 million 5G subscriptions are expected by the end of 2020, continued Ashton.

“Despite the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, service providers continued to switch on 5G and more than 100 have now announced commercial 5G service launches worldwide.”

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