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Press Release | 18 Dec 2018

Watch out Ruldolph: Vodafone showcases remote gift delivery with UK’s first drone drop over a mobile network

Watch out Ruldolph: Vodafone showcases remote gift delivery with UK’s first drone drop over a mobile network
  • Vodafone brings Christmas cheer with UK’s first drone delivery over a mobile network
  • The strength and breadth of Vodafone’s 4G network is demonstrated with festive drone drop to rural workers
  • Flying drones over 4G or 5G could enable vital deliveries to remote locations in the future

Vodafone has completed the first ever UK drone delivery over a 4G mobile network.  Drones are traditionally flown using a radio link, with the drone in sight of the operator.  However, controlling drones using the 4G network means they can be monitored in real time, reducing the need for drones to be flown in line of sight.  Vodafone was able to complete the delivery due to the strength of its 4G network, which covers 99% of the UK population.

The drone is the first of its kind to be built and flown in the UK and harnesses the power of Vodafone’s network via a portable 4G router.  In the future, drone delivery over a mobile network could be used to drop vital supplies into hard to reach places.  The low latency of 5G will also open up new opportunities for using drones in more densely populated areas.  5G technology will make the drones more responsive, which is essential for avoiding buildings and other obstructions in built-up areas.

The specially adapted drone was made to look like a twinkling Santa sleigh and carried festive treats. It brought Christmas cheer to Portland Bill Coastwatch, which sits on one of the most southerly points of the UK and operates 365 days a year.  It is manned by 75 volunteers, known as Watch Keepers, who are the eyes and the ears of the coast.   The Watch Keepers complete over 9,500 hours of service each year and work closely with the emergency services to help save lives. Entirely exposed to the UK coast, the site can be hard to reach in winter months.  However, using Vodafone’s best ever 4G network, a delivery of much-needed mince pies, chocolate and gingerbread men was delivered to the hardworking volunteers.

Scott Petty, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone UK said: “Technology plays an increasingly important role in connecting people over Christmas.  Flying a drone over 4G for the first time gives us a glimpse of what Christmas deliveries of the future might look like.  We have been   working hard to build a network that now covers 99% of the UK population, and I’m really pleased we’ve been able to use it to support our rural communities this festive season.”

You can watch the full video here.

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 Notes to editors

*We have our most reliable network ever. Our 4G network now covers 99% of the UK population.  For full verification see www.vodafone.co.uk/network.  You can also check out our current and planned coverage at www.vodafone.co.uk/our-network-and-coverage/uk-coverage-map/index.htm

 Technical detail about the drone

  • The Drone was specifically modified to allow it to be flown using Vodafone’s 4G network. A system was installed on the aircraft to enable it to be able to receive commands from the ground station over Vodafone’s 4G network.
  • The Ground station (laptop) at the landing location is connected to the internet via the 4G Vodafone Gigacube which provides mobile Wi-Fi.
  • From the ground station, commands are sent to the drone over the 4G network in the form of GPS coordinates to give the aircraft a flight path to the landing site.
  • The Drone takes off and flies the automated flight plan to the landing site.

 

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed line connections, home and office broadband and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Having made the UK’s first mobile phone call and sent the first text message, Vodafone has a history as a tech pioneer. In 2018 we made the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G, and were first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester. We now have 5G in more places than anyone else, with multiple locations now live across the UK and the rest of Europe.

Today we serve more than 18 million mobile and fixed line customers in the UK, with 4G network coverage at 99%.  Our customers voted us the UK’s Best Mobile Network at the 2018 Trusted Reviews Awards – for the second year in a row. To help deliver Gigabit UK, our full-fibre broadband roll-out programme now covers 15 UK towns and cities through partnerships with CityFibre and Openreach.

Connectivity is at the heart of what we do as it gives us a huge opportunity for good. We are using our network, products, talents and technology to help society prosper and respond to significant social and environmental issues.  Our free Digital Parenting magazine is helping families and schools across the UK to navigate the online world safely. Meanwhile, the Vodafone Foundation’s work with researchers at Imperial College is developing personalised cancer treatment using the processing power of smartphones.

We are part of Vodafone Group, one of the world’s largest technology communications companies, with mobile operations in 26 countries, partnerships with mobile networks in 55 more, and fixed broadband operations in 19 markets.  As of 30 September 2019, Vodafone Group had approximately 625 million mobile customers, 27 million fixed broadband customers, and 22 million TV customers – including all of the customers in Vodafone’s joint ventures and associates.

For more information about Vodafone UK, please visit: www.vodafone.co.uk

 

Vodafone UK Media Relations

Telephone: +44 (0) 1635 693 693

Twitter: @VodafoneUKNews

Website: https://newscentre.vodafone.co.uk

Vodafone Limited

Registered Office: Vodafone House, The Connection, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2FN

Registered in England No: 1471587