Qualcomm Enables Aerial Drones with 5G and AI


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Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) is introducing a new processing platform that enables aerial drones to operate with 5G wireless connectivity and artificial intelligence (AI) in a multitude of commercial, enterprise, and industrial applications.

The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform helps enterprises use drones to capture data from drone cameras and process that data at the edge of the network, VentureBeat reported.

The platform uses Qualcomm’s QRB5165 processor which enables a new generation of low power drones to capture a lot of data with cameras and transmit that data via 5G connections either to a local operator or send it over a network to a remote operator. The platform’s AI capability deciphers what data is most valuable and worth sending, thereby reducing the amount of raw traffic on a network.

A wide range of applications

Qualcomm sees increasing demand for drone-collected data in private 5G networks for factories and other industrial applications.

According to Dev Singh, Qualcomm’s General Manager of autonomous robots, drones, and intelligent machines, the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform condenses multiple complex technologies into a tightly integrated drone system that supports evolving applications and new use cases in film and entertainment, public safety, delivery, and inspection and mapping in infrastructure-intensive industries.

“Qualcomm is taking its current leadership in 5G and AI to scale the next generation of drones and IoT,” Singh comments. “With 5G and AI, it is going to help accelerate development of commercial, enterprise industrial drones and really open up innovative possibilities for industries looking to adopt high-performance, low power, small form factor, long-range communication, autonomous, and intelligent drones.”

The platform consists of several components: eight central processing units, a graphics processing unit, a neural processing engine, and cameras that can handle 8K resolution and 4K capture at 120 frames per second. Through extensive cost-reduction and redesign, these components fit on a credit card-sized board that is packaged and mounted on a drone.

Singh says the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform is purpose-built for drone development with enhanced autonomy and intelligence features. With this platform, Qualcomm is bringing premium connected flight capabilities for uses in oil and gas exploration, wind farms, entertainment, deliveries, public safety, agriculture, and inspection.

In addition, users can partition AI tasks to ensure privacy, reliability, low latency, and efficient use of network bandwidth.

Seven cameras for collision avoidance

The platform includes seven cameras that capture video data and for avoiding aerial collisions. This feature is especially important for growing drone delivery services such as critical medical supplies delivered directly to patients at home.

Wireless connections can be 5G, or even WiFi 6, giving drones the ability to fly beyond its pilot’s line-of-sight. Moreover, the drone has cybersecurity protection with the Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit.

The company is testing the Qualcomm Flight RB5 platform on Verizon’s 5G millimeter wave frequencies. Verizon may offer the Qualcomm design through its ThingSpace IoT management platform that allows developers to prototype, test, connect and manage their IoT devices on Verizon’s network.

The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G development kit is expected to be available in Q4 2021.

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