Telia Uses Drone to Extend 5G Network for Remote Forestry Machine Control

Telia has utilized a drone equipped with a portable mobile base station to remotely control a forestry machine via 5G in an area with limited connectivity.

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Telia has conducted this test in a forest outside Vasteras, central Sweden, as part of a research project with Mittuniversitetet, Ericsson, Skogforsk, SCA, Volvo CE, and Biometria, and co-funded by Vinnova and the program for Advanced Digitalization.

Telia said the project group previously achieved a milestone in November 2021 by remotely controlling a timber loader at SCA’s Torsboda timber terminal outside Timra, northern Sweden.

The team from Telia aimed to extend 5G network coverage using a drone in an otherwise connectivity-deprived area to enable remote operation of a forestry machine. At the beginning of May, successful tests were conducted in a forest in Virsbo outside Vasteras, according to Magnus Leonhardt, Head of Strategy and Innovation for Telia Sweden’s B2B business.

“We can now establish that it is possible to connect and remotely control large vehicles via a drone, which in practice acts as a base station in the mobile network. This creates opportunities to connect businesses that work in areas with insufficient network coverage,” Magnus Leonhardt said.

Following a technical briefing, the forestry machine was transported to a clear-cutting site where it was connected using 5G technology mounted on a drone. During the test, the drone operated approximately 500 meters from the forestry machine, creating a coverage area extending up to 3 kilometers. The machine was remotely controlled from Skogforsk’s lab in Uppsala, about 80 kilometers away, as detailed by Petrus Jonsson, a researcher and deputy program manager at Skogforsk.

The project aims to explore how drone and 5G technology could enable remote areas around Sweden to be operated with remote-controlled vehicles. Researchers at Mittuniversitetet are focusing on studying the latency and reliability of data communication, which is critical for remote machine control, as explained by Professor Mattias O’Nils.

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