BT has unveiled the UK’s first “Drone SIM,” promising to revolutionise beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations nationwide.
The solution functions at altitude through the EE network and offers unlimited data plans and continuous connectivity in the sky—setting the stage for transformative changes in various industries.
Drone SIM is designed to withstand extreme conditions – including vibrations, temperature variations, and humidity – ensuring its functionality in all seasons. BT business customers will be the first to experience the benefits of this technology.
Dave Pankhurst, Director of Drones at BT, said:
“Following the successful trials of our Drone SIM over the past year, this announcement is a huge stepping stone in bringing drone connectivity to businesses across the UK, unlocking the potential for more efficient processes, business transformation and, with the ability to power search and rescue missions and medical deliveries, helping to save lives.”
BT says its use of the EE network offers high-priority and ultra-responsive connectivity. The network enables safety, control, telemetry, and ultra-high definition (UHD) video streaming at altitudes—allowing detailed imagery and videos for purposes ranging from search-and-rescue to infrastructure inspections.
With the largest geographic coverage in the UK, uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be able to travel substantial distances while maintaining constant communication with remote pilots and safety systems. This represents a paradigm shift from the limitations imposed by line-of-sight radio transmission or local Wi-Fi.
Drone SIM’s impact is not limited to just one sector. Eduardo Aldaz-Carroll, Chief Technology Officer at sees.ai, highlighted the importance of drone inspections in national energy infrastructure:
“Drones offer significant benefits by increasing the speed, efficiency and consistency of data capture so we can predict the future state of the asset with reduced risk and environmental impact.
It’s great to be working with BT Group to develop the technologies required to roll out BVLOS drone inspection and monitoring at scale.”
Etc., BT Group’s digital start-up and incubation arm, has played a pivotal role in innovating the drone industry. Their historic partnerships, such as the £5 million deal with Altitude Angel, have contributed to building the UK’s first drone superhighway.
Following successful trials and developments, Drone SIM has powered critical infrastructure inspections, BVLOS mission safety standards testing, and even a groundbreaking drone medical delivery trial in collaboration with aerial logistics specialist Skyfarer.
Georgia Hanrahan, Chief Operations Officer at Skyfarer, expressed her excitement about Drone SIM powering BVLOS flights:
“With the Drone SIM powering BVLOS flight, we can take a 20-minute flight between two hospitals and reduce this to a more direct 8-minute flight.
Perfect for time-sensitive deliveries. We estimate a wider scale roll out nationwide could reduce our delivery time by 60 percent compared to road transport.”
The launch of Drone SIM marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of drone technology in the UK. With its potential to save lives, transform businesses, and streamline crucial operations, it opens up a new chapter for unmanned aerial vehicles.
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