Japan Cellular Drone – tested at distance of 50km from base station

Mobile phone service provider, NTT DoCoMo recently performed the first test in Japan to remotely control a small UAV (drone) using the cellular/mobile phone communication network (LTE network).
The test included controlling the drone and the drone sending real time camera video and flight data to a base station located at a distance of 50km (31 miles).  The test will help move forward develop of beyond-line-of-sight connectivity and future drone delivery services.  Check out the above news video from Japan’s TV Asahi reporting on the groundbreaking test.

NTT DoCoMo Cellular Drone
The next phase of the project includes testing from Nov to Dec 2016 to utilize the NTT DoCoMo mobile phone network and the  “Cellular Drone” as it is called to deliver daily goods to the residents of a small island located 2.5km off the coast of Kyushu (island) Japan.
Working with project partners Mikawaya21 and enRoute, the NTT DoCoMo project test will be instrumental in developing the full-fledged commercial Cellular Drone service which is planned for launch in 2018.
enRoute is an unmaned vehicle development and manufacturing company … including hexacopter and quadcopter multirotor uav, while Mikawaya21 is a service provider.

Cellular network drone project

Is this the beginning of the future of drones?  Using the LTE mobile phone network to control drones at potentially unlimited distances from a base station, verses the present direct RF control that limits the distance from the controller.

Images and Sources: TV Asahi, engadget

Look for updates here on the progress of this technology.

Update: November 30, 2016
Another drone maker’s system,  ACSL, is being utilized on an LTE network test.
As part of the DoCoMo Drone Project, this time Rakuten, ACSL, and NTT DoCoMo partnered to successfully demonstrate a drone based package delivery system in an urban area using LTE.  The experiment was a pre-cursor to future long-distance delivery by drones, demonstrating that an order placed from a smartphone was correctly received by the drone-based delivery system, and that remote control via the LTE network can be conducted in a stable manner.