Last December 17th, 2019, Unmanned Teknologies Applications (UTEK), in cooperation with 5TONIC members Telefónica, Ericsson and IMDEA Networks, had carried out the first world experience of a remotely controlled unmanned surface vessel (USV) using the connectivity provided by the Telefónica commercial 4G network. The trial was carried out at the Pantaño de San Juan in Madrid in early December and the results have fulfilled all the expectations.
USVs are boats that operate on the surface of the water without a crew and can be used for a number of applications, ranging from oceanographic exploration to mine hunting. UTEK’s USVs provide high reliability and advanced performance, adapted to customer needs. The final product is highly robust in terms of low failure rate and high effectiveness thanks to the use of aerospace methodologies.
UTEK provided a boat that can be remotely controlled using the connectivity supported by a radio frequency system operating in unlicensed spectrum. The controller at the shore uses the real time video signal captured by a camera in the boat to steer it in the right direction. The substitution of the RF system by LTE was initially tested in the 5TONIC lab in Leganés. Both the controller in the shore and the USV were connected to the Telefónica LTE network using off-the-shelf commercial routers. For the support of the trial, Telefónica provided the “VPN only Mobile” service, that implements a tunnel inside the mobile network, without getting out to Internet, and also provides fixed IP addresses to the routers. LTE based performance and reliability were comparable to those provided by the private radio system, with the advantage of greatly simplifying the deployment of the equipment.
During the trial, the USV traveled several kilometers controlled from the shore, reaching speeds in excess of 15 knots. No loss of connectivity was observed, and latency was low enough to have no impact on the accuracy of the USV steering. The throughput supported also allowed for the use of high resolution video.
UTEK and 5TONIC will continue their collaboration in order to implement the same use case using 5G connectivity. 5G is expected to provide not only higher capacity, that will allow for the use of higher resolution video and 360º vision, but also greater flexibility for configuring the network in order to support the specific requirements of this use case, thanks to network slicing and more effective quality of service management in 5G.
UTEK became a 5TONOC collaborator in March 2019.