5G drones to deliver packages in Florida

12th January 2021 Sarah Wray

Verizon has announced a collaboration with United Parcel Service (UPS) to test 5G to deliver retail packages via drones to residents at The Villages retirement community in Florida.

The announcement was one of several made by Verizon’s Chairman and CEO, Hans Vestberg, during a keynote at the virtual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which opened yesterday.

In 2020, Verizon, UPS Flight Forward and Skyward started testing 4G LTE in delivery drones to demonstrate cellular reliability and performance at altitude. 5G will enable additional benefits, they say.

“The low latency of 5G and edge compute is ideal for monitoring air traffic in and out of a busy logistics hub, especially those using mixed fleets of autonomous vehicles like drones, trucks and planes,” said Mariah Scott, President of Skyward, a drone software, consultancy and connectivity company which was acquired by Verizon in 2017. “This year, we’ll be taking the collaboration with UPS further by testing 5G Ultra Wideband integrations to connect the sky.”

Carol B. Tomé, CEO, UPS, added: “We will need the ability to manage and support multiple drones, flying simultaneously, dispatched from a centralised location, operating in a secure and safe environment. To do this at scale, alongside Verizon and Skyward, we’ll need the power of 5G.”

Preparing for drone deliveries

UPS has operated more than 3,800 drone delivery flights since the creation of UPS Flight Forward, its drone delivery company which was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2019. During the pandemic, drone delivery has expanded from emergency healthcare supplies to providing rapid, contactless delivery options to people at home.

“Using Verizon’s 5G and Skyward, we’ll be able to transform the delivery experience – more personal, more on-demand and with the same safety, efficiency and reliability our customers trust today.” said Bala Ganesh, Vice President, Advanced Technology Group, UPS.

Earlier this year, Pedro Pacheco, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner, told Cities Today that city leaders should prepare for an increase in delivery drones, accelerated by their use during the COVID-19 crisis.

By 2026, more than a million drones globally could be carrying out retail deliveries, up from 20,000 today, according to Gartner.

Pacheco urged cities to begin considering regulation, privacy, security and landing space allocation.

At CES, Vestberg also announced that Verizon will install 5G in 28 NFL stadiums by the end of 2021 to make the fan experience more immersive.

Further, the company has partnered with 15 Live Nation clubs and theatres across the US to deploy 5G to give audiences new ways of experiencing music both in-person and virtually.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Verizon also launched The Met Unframed, an immersive virtual art and gaming experience.

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