Telecoms network Verizon is planning to launch data plans for drone pilots, which will see consumer and commercial drones given access to the same data offered to mobile phone users. The move could be the first glimpse of a future in which drones are increasingly connected to the internet for live streaming and remote operation.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the plans will be similar in price and structure to those offered to cell phone users. Verizon has said it’s considering charging $25 a month for 1GB of data and $80 a month for 10GB.
At the moment, the connection between drone and pilot is a lot more complex than it needs to be. You have to set up a tether between a remote control, the drone itself and then introduce another connection to a phone or tablet. So what could you do with a drone data plan? In theory, it’ll mean that drones will be able to connect directly to the internet during flight, swapping a three-way tethering process for a simple back and forth between the drone and the pilot.
This can be used for live streaming, more secure connections between drone and pilot, and even, Verizon has suggested, enable drones to be flown remotely for commercial, beyond line of sight purposes.
Plenty of manufacturers have launched new drones recently to take advantage of the upcoming festive season. And one thing many have in common is an increasing awareness of the importance of linking drones to social media. Not too long ago Facebook opened up APIs to allows the likes of DJI to stream directly through the social platform – maybe ever more connected drones, via drone data plans, is a natural step in this direction.
“We believe we are uniquely positioned to enable the sort of data collection that will be necessary for regulators to make these decisions,” said David McCarley, a technology fellow at Verizon Wireless. The service helps move drones “from the whiteboard to the tarmac,” he said.