Drone-as-a-service (Daas): Potential Use Cases In Africa

Drone-as-a-service (Daas): Potential Use Cases In Africa

Drone-as-a-service (Daas), as the name implies, involves the provision of drone and other software capabilities or added offerings, as a service to a client. The software capabilities or added offerings could include maintenance, repair, analysis of video recordings, personnel, communication and connectivity offerings.

Daas has often been touted as a potential use case for 5G in emergency or disaster regions. Here, daas would involve the attachment of a small cell or 5G antenna or Access Point to a drone to provide communication and connectivity offerings to regions with poor coverage that may have experienced humanitarian disaster. In some instances, infra-red cameras are also attached to the drone to detect human presence via heat radiation.

This is very similar to the High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS), popularized by Facebook, now being spearheaded by Airbus as well. It involves the use of an air-craft to beam internet access to remote areas in developing countries. The success of this project has led to huge interest from regulators and policy makers in developing countries and as such, it is one of the many applications whose allocation of spectrum would be heavily contested at ITU World Radio Congress (WRC) happening in Egypt.

This concept of daas, similar to HAPS, can further be modified for use in developing countries. This service could be provided by any of the mobile operators. Imagine a small HAPS (a small drone attached to a small cell antenna or access point) providing connectivity and communication services to your guests or VIPs at an event. Such service, if offered, would ensure that in a crowded environment, your guests or VIPs enjoy excellent coverage. Guests or VIPS could be offered a password to access such connectivity service. This service could then be charged for based on the number of hours the drone provides communication and connectivity offerings to your guests. Other services such as personalized photography, video analyses, etc, could be included in the offering.

Furthermore, the daas could alternately serve as a cheaper option to the HAPS and could be deployed by Governmental agencies to under-served areas with poor connectivity and communication offerings and hopefully help to bridge the digital divide using allocated funds such as Universal Service Provision Fund.

The above concept can further be expanded for use in regions where real time situational awareness is essential. This would no doubt involve the use of a drone, camera, communication and connectivity offerings, real time analyses of gathered/captured data etc. The low latency requirements of 5G (<1ms) would greatly benefit real time monitoring as it would aid the transfer of video files as well as help decision makers actively make decisions from the gathered and analysed data.

Caveat: Even though these concepts and ideas sound good, they need to be tested before implementation.

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