US operators AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon conducted independent cross-carrier interoperable API tests in North America focused on drone public safety connectivity, as part of the GSMA’s Open Gateway initiative.

The GSMA stated the three operators worked with developers at drone maker Inspired Flight Technologies (IFT) for the project and Verizon also used its membership with technology foundation MITRE Engenuity to test a device status API. 

Once the API is commercially deployed, connected devices such as drones, can maintain connectivity mid-flight. This means a drone can be re-contacted if issues occur.

Adam Bilmes, senior director of business development at IFT explained the ability to access network information via an API enables better drone flight support and management. Companies will be able to “pinpoint where to send relief immediately after weather events and/or to fly over communications, and other assets to expedite recovery efforts”, he added. 

Announced a year ago, Open Gateway is designed to help businesses bring new 5G services and use cases to market faster. Globally, 42 mobile operator groups are now part of the initiative. 

Henry Calvert, head of networks at the GSMA, said the drone demonstration represented “a fantastic step forward in the US” and Yigal Elbaz, SVP and network CTO at AT&T, added “open and reusable network APIs are important for the progression of 5G and future wireless technologies”.

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