Industry Initiative Aims to Enhance Drone Communications

A new initiative from global wireless organization GSMA aims to enhance drone communications. Several U.S. mobile providers have tested new drone communications capabilities as part of the initiative, known as the GSMA Open Gateway program.

The testing involved a cross-carrier method by which drones and potentially other devices can communicate over 5G during flight.

Drone Communications

The carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon — tested an application programming interface (API) that the GSMA says is the first in North America to enable such communications. It is aimed far beyond the drone communications use case, however. The GSMA says that the API is part of its mission of “unlock(ing) the full potential of 5G connectivity.”

The testing was done in partnership with drone maker Inspired Flight Technologies.

Verizon also worked with MITRE Engenuity to test a device status API. The API is designed to enable connected drones and other devices to maintain connectivity mid-flight and to reconnect if technical issues arise, according to GSMA.

Creation of a common and open framework between mobile operators could open new horizons for developers and cloud providers. This would be achieved through single, programmable access points — APIs — which are universal among mobile networks, according to GSMA.

The program is broad. GSMA said that 42 mobile operator groups that represent 237 mobile networks and 65% of global connections are part of the program.

“This is a fantastic step forward by operators in the United States,” said GSMA Head of Networks Henry Calvert in a prepared statement. “In the same way open standards and interoperability helped harmonize mobile voice services and roaming across the world 35 years ago, GSMA Open Gateway can unlock the door to a whole array of new 5G services and innovations. These include new APIs to support autonomous vehicles and fleet management for logistics and deliveries [and] to increase productivity and provide quality on demand network services for drones, robotics, extended reality, and immersive online gaming.”


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