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What does it take to live-stream video from a drone at an emergency rescue and response location 100 kilometers (62 miles) away?
System integrator Media Broadcast GmbH didn’t want to wait for the next rescue to find out. Collaborating with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. in California, USA and WLH (Wirtschaftsförderung im Landkreis Harburg GmbH) in Buchholz, Germany, they devised a proof of concept (PoC) of intelligent drone management for emergency rescue and response. The goal was to demonstrate live control of a drone over a 5G private network and the internet, beyond the line of sight (BVLOS). The role of the drone was to send video from a simulated rescue taking place in another location.
The video below summarizes the BVLOS demonstration, including 5G connectivity, on-device intelligence, autonomous navigation, software integration and high-resolution multimedia capabilities.
The use case: Intelligent drone management in emergency rescue and response
WLH’s Technology and Innovation Park (TIP) Nordheide in Buchholz was chosen as the site for the PoC because of its smart infrastructure technology. TIP Nordheide makes it a priority for companies like Media Broadcast to first define the use case; only then do they proceed to develop and test under real-world conditions.
The 5G Scenario Lab at TIP Nordheide also offers a number of advantages that appealed to Media Broadcast, starting with easy access to the 5G test bed. The expansive grounds are in the order of a small city, making it ideal for smart-city applications. The lab offers virtual reality equipment and a drone hangar, with nearby expertise from other participating companies and research entities.
Media Broadcast wanted to work on a 5G-specific use case, and it happened that intelligent drone management was a topic of interest at the 5G Scenario Lab. Crews like firefighters, police officers and ambulance teams can use drones to collect information from remote emergencies far beyond the line of sight. But how would they function during a wider mission, when public networks are overloaded and communication with the drones is sporadic?
WLH and Media Broadcast agreed that the use case was compelling, especially at locations like a racetrack or airport. They imagined that the PoC would involve a drone being piloted at Hannover and navigating at a simulated motor vehicle accident in Buchholz, 100 km away. The drone would capture video at the site and send the real-time feedback to Hannover command center over a 5G private network and the internet.
The network: 5G private network
Real-time responsiveness depends on low latency, so Media Broadcast set up a 5G private network for several hundred megabits per second of 5G coverage. The bandwidth ensured low latency to both control the drone remotely and transmit video quickly. Independent of public cellular networks, the configuration would provide real-time images to emergency crews.
The 5G private network played a central role in the overall solution. As implemented by Media Broadcast and WLH at TIP Nordheide, the network’s unique features included:
- 40 km of fiber optics
- 1200 single fibers
- 5G equipment (outdoor units) on street lamps
- 10 radio cells
- Capacity for up to 129 outdoor units
One of the radio cells used was the Qualcomm® FSM100 Platform for Small Cells, a standard product for 5G infrastructure providers.
The hardware: Commercial drone + Qualcomm Robotics RB5 development kit
Media Broadcast obtained a commercial drone on which they mounted a Qualcomm® Robotics RB5 development kit with a 5G mezzanine card to add IoT capabilities needed for BVLOS operation:
- Low latency, 5G connectivity for remote teleoperation on public or private networks
- Autonomous flight (take-off, navigation to destination, landing)
- Video decoding/encoding and broadcasting over the cellular link
- Powerful, heterogeneous computing with integrated audio, sensors, and image signal processor (ISP)
- Qualcomm® AI Engine for running AI and deep learning applications at the network edge
The Qualcomm Robotics RB5 development kit is hardware-agnostic and compatible with a variety of drones. For this PoC, Media Broadcast chose an industrial-grade model designed for mapping and inspection in use cases like firefighting, power, geomatics, and search and rescue.
Based on the Qualcomm® QRB5165 processor, the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 development kit provides the processing and power-efficiency needed for full, high-definition image transfer and real-time streaming with ultra-low latency.
The software integration: Qualcomm Robotics RB5 to drone
Two software components rounded out the PoC.
The first was an integration between the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 development kit and the drone. Working with the Qualcomm® Intelligent Multimedia SDK, Media Broadcast’s engineer enabled the development kit to decode, encode and transmit video over the network via WebRTC. No network-specific programming was required for the application to run on the 5G private network.
The second software component was the Qualcomm® Command Center. An end-to-end solution designed for creating and executing missions, the Qualcomm Command Center offers autonomous navigation and various levels of tele-manual control with low latency.
The integration was typical of other successful adaptations between the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 and various drone models.
Next step: Watch the demo
The development timeline for the PoC was about three months. Media Broadcast GmbH said, “Through collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies, we showed the implementation of a rescue recovery use case using 5G, adroitly addressing challenges in real-time data transmission during critical scenarios.”
To promote the stability and reliability of their solution for intelligent drone management, the companies decided to stage a live demonstration at Hannover Messe 2023. The video above shows the highlights of this 5G-IoT proof of concept:
- A fire-fighting truck arrive at the scene of a simulated motor vehicle accident (on the grounds of TIP Nordheide in Buchholz).
- The drone, equipped with the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 development kit, hovers near the scene.
- From the Media Broadcast booth at Hannover Messe, about 100 km from the scene of the simulated accident, the pilot controls the drone.
- A monitor in the booth displays the HD video, which streams from the site over the 5G private networks and the internet with low latency.
Watch the video to find out more about the use case and how your organization can use the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 development kit.
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