T-Mobile US claimed credit for enabling a near 80-mile beyond-visual-line-of-sight flight by a drone tapping the capabilities of 5G, citing potential for inspection programmes, agriculture and disaster relief.

The operator teamed with manufacturing company Valmont Industries to trial the drone over a distance of 77 miles. T-Mobile stated this was an industry first, with 5G capabilities enabling the craft to record high-resolution video and conduct near real-time analysis.

T-Mobile argued existing inspection methods “typically require extensive manpower, manned aircraft operations or ground-based inspections”.

It tipped a turnaround given the “Federal Aviation Administration is granting more waivers” to drone operators including Valmont Industries.

The Harris Aerial-supplied drone’s flight time stood at less than three hours, during which it was used to inspect “vital infrastructure”.

Visual inspections were handled by a Sony camera connected to T-Mobile’s 5G network, with the operator stating all work happened three-times faster and with less fuel consumption than using today’s methods.

Jake Lahmann, UAS manager at Valmont Industries, noted range has been a limiting factor in drone inspection services, meaning the distance covered in the trial “is really going to revolutionise the way the industry approaches” future checks.

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