Monday 5 October 2020

Softbank Demoed Drone Wireless Relay System

Back in 2016, I was involved with doing testing using drones and Helikite with the UK operator EE. You can read more about that here. Since then, many different operators have tested the use of drones mainly for disaster recovery kinds of scenarios. The Japanese operator Softbank recently tried the same.

The press release from them provided the following details:

When typhoons, earthquakes, landslides and other types of natural disasters strike, mobile phones serve as an important lifeline for people to get information and to stay in touch with their family, friends and colleagues. SoftBank Corp. recognizes the importance of restoring communications lifelines quickly, and is engaged in developing and building systems for disaster preparedness.

One such service restoration initiative SoftBank has been working on is the “Drone Wireless Relay System.” On August 31, 2020, SoftBank demonstrated the solution for the press at Katsuma Radio Control Airstrip in Ichihara City, Chiba Prefecture, just east of Tokyo.

Thanks to their portability and ease-of-use, drone-based wireless relay base stations are showing promise as a means of providing connectivity when outages occur in the wake of natural disasters. SoftBank has been working with theTokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech)’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering since 2019 to conduct research on drone-based wireless relay systems that use a wired power feed.

SoftBank’s drone-based relay base station rises to an altitude of 100 meters, covering a 10km radius. The drone can be transported in a small vehicle and is easy to set up. Compared to another SoftBank network recovery solution, the moored-balloon relay system, the time to deployment is much shorter. In addition, the wired power supply allows the drone to fly continuously for three days or longer, making it suitable for operations over the short- to medium-term.

The moored-balloon wireless relay system is capable of lifting wireless relay equipment to an altitude of 100 meters, covering a five-kilometer radius in open terrain. SoftBank 3G (mobile phone) (2.1 GHz band) voice communications and packet transmissions (email, Internet, etc.) can be used within the coverage area. We are also conducting trial tests of a new moored-balloon wireless relay system for SoftBank 4G LTE that can be deployable from ships, as part of our efforts to continuously improve this system.

A video from the recent drone event is as follows:

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