Qualcomm unleashes era of autonomous drone capabilities with 5G and AI-enabled platform

Following the success of the Ingenuity Helicopter on Mars as a key breakthrough for unmanned flight powered by the Qualcomm Flight Platform, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. has unveiled the drone platform and reference design to offer both 5G and AI capabilities, the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform.

This new solution helps accelerate development for commercial, enterprise, and industrial drones, and unleashes innovative possibilities for industries looking to adopt drone solutions and realise the benefits of the intelligent edge. The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform, powered by the Qualcomm QRB5165 processor, builds upon Qualcomm Technologies’ latest IoT offerings, delivering a solution which will drive the next generation of high-performance, low-power, 5G drones.

As a primary driver of global 5G proliferation, Qualcomm Technologies has acted as a catalyst and visionary in enabling 5G to scale and revolutionise the robotics and drone industry. The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform brings cutting-edge capabilities to the drone industry by condensing multiple complex technologies into one tightly integrated drone system to support evolving applications and new use cases in sectors including film and entertainment, security and emergency response, delivery, defense, inspection, and mapping.

“We have continued to engage many leading drone companies, enabling 200+ global robotics and drone ecosystem members in addition to consistently driving and promoting worldwide drone standardisation and transformative 5G capabilities in organisations such as 3GPP, GSMA, the Global UTM Alliance, the Aerial Connectivity Joint Initiative (ACJA), ASTM,” says Dev Singh, senior director, business development and general manager of autonomous robotics, drones and intelligent machines, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

“We are proud to continue our momentum of enabling the digital transformation of global industries by unveiling the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform, a solution that is purpose-built for drone development with enhanced autonomy and intelligence features, bringing premium connected flight capabilities to industrial, enterprise and commercial segments.”

The Qualcomm Flight RB5 platform’s high-performance and heterogeneous computing at ultra-low power consumption provides power efficient inferencing at the edge for AI and Machine Learning (ML) enabling fully autonomous drones. Breakthrough camera capabilities deliver premium image capabilities and performance. With 5G and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, this platform enhances critical flying abilities beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) to support safer, more reliable flight.

In addition, safety controls alone can no longer assure industrial and commercial drone safety, especially when scaling to Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations. The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform is equipped with a Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit to support modern drone demands for cybersecurity protections as a key enabler of data-protection and safety requirements.

Qualcomm Technologies is working with Verizon to complete network testing of the Qualcomm Flight RB5 platform for the Verizon 5G network, and expects the platform, which is 5G mmWave capable, will be offered via the Verizon Thingspace Marketplace. The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G drone reference design is available for pre-sale now through ModalAI. The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G development kit is expected to be available in Q4 of 2021. For more information on the platform, including technical features, please visit the product details page.

Global carriers and IoT ecosystem provider showcase validation and support for Qualcomm Technologies latest drone solution:

AT&T “Many of the anticipated benefits of drones will be further accelerated and strengthened with 5G, including delivery, inspections, and search and rescue, which will require a highly secure and reliable connection. We are excited to see Qualcomm Technologies continue to innovate with their latest announcement on a platform for 5G drones,” says Kevin Hetrick, vice-president, access construction and engineering, AT&T.

China Unicom “The 5G-enabled digital era has brought wider boundaries for every industry and China Unicom is committed to pushing the boundaries of the traditional communications ecosystem and working together with the industrial chain to realise mutual complementarity. As one of our important collaborators, Qualcomm Technologies has been working with China Unicom to drive integration of 5G and IoT into vertical use cases and provide products such as 5G modules and 5G industrial gateways for automation and robotics use cases, with focused areas including industrial equipment, iron and steel manufacturing, transportation and port, mining and energy, and healthcare,” says Li Kai, chief product officer, IoT division, China Unicom Digital Technology Company Limited.

“We believe the announcement of the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform will benefit more use cases. China Unicom is looking forward to deepening collaborations with Qualcomm Technologies in IoT and jointly creating a new blueprint for 5G in the future.”

MITRE “The reliability, availability, and low latency of 5G enable previously unavailable command and control of UAS, solving critical UAS safety considerations and enabling operation beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). With this connectivity and the added benefit of moving intelligence to the edge, we are now beginning to realise real solutions with significant impact on business and our everyday lives,” says Rakesh Kushwaha, managing director, open generation program, MITRE-Engenuity.

“The Qualcomm Flight RB5 Platform brings advanced intelligence to autonomous decisions, enabling detect and avoid (DAA) even beyond network connectivity. It is a game changer. We are glad to have Qualcomm Technologies participate in the MITRE Engenuity Open Generation.”

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