Ericsson 5G smart factory drone tests

Ericsson has initiated a 5G smart factory proof of concept at its testbed 5G Smart Factory site in the USA. The testbed features an autonomous, natively 5G mmWave connected drone to perform indoor missions within the Ericsson factory.

The drone is powered by the Qualcomm QRB5165 processor with integrated 5G mmWave from Telit Cinterion and Ericsson’s end-to-end private 5G network.

Testing has begun with autonomous inventory checks in the factory’s warehouse high racks. The drone has indoor-optimised flight control, 5G connected Nest docking station, and live video streaming cameras. These enable a wide variety of sensing solutions using the Ericsson USA 5G Smart Factory’s fully on-premises 5G private network. The proof of concept demonstrates the potential for autonomous barcode scanning using drones for inventory management in certain types of warehouses.

The drone is one of the first natively mmWave 5G devices in the factory, signaling a shift from wired or Wi-Fi connections to native mmWave 5G connectivity for industrial use. It eliminates the need for external gateways or hotspots, which were previously required for similar use cases to use mmWave 5G. The Telit Cinterion FN980m mmWave industrial grade M.2 data card, equipped with the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System, powers the drone’s 5G connection, designed for numerous high-performance and bandwidth-intensive enterprise and industrial uses.

Although the 5G drone test serves as proof of concept, it is not currently intended to address the needs of the USA 5G Smart Factory. The demo was focused on showcasing the potential of natively mmWave commercial-ready 5G devices for inventory management in warehouse settings.

Carlos Torres, Head of Industry 4.0 at Ericsson’s USA 5G Smart Factory said: “This successful demo helps lay the foundation for future integration of 5G-powered drones in industrial settings, particularly for inventory management. At the same time, this proof of concept hosted by our USA 5G Smart Factory innovation team using drones for mmWave and private networks shows Ericsson’s commitment to advancing the non-mobile broadband ecosystem.”

Dev Singh, Vice President of Business Development at Qualcomm Technologies said: “Qualcomm Technologies is committed to driving advancements in connectivity, AI and computing to enable the full potential of Industry 4.0 and beyond. Our 5G mmWave and drone technologies have the potential to transform inventory management, and the successful proof of concept with Ericsson, Dronus and Telit Cinterion demonstrates the practical application of these technologies in an industrial setting. We are excited about this milestone and look forward to seeing how it can be used to improve efficiency and productivity in the future.”