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Vodafone and Airbus set out new era for autonomous airships

18 Sep 2019Technology news
2 minute read

Airships are one of the most graceful forms of air transport and may become more common in the 5G age.

Vodafone Germany and Airbus have revealed their co-operation on a new unmanned aerial vehicle called ALtAIR.

The 12 metre tall unmanned airship can be guided from up to 250 kilometres away using Vodafone’s 5G network.

5G means real time, near instantaneous communication between a connected item and the internet for the first time and will enable a new era of the ‘Internet of Things’.

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The first 5G airship. Photo rights: Vodafone Germany

Airborne services of all kinds, even over densely populated areas

ALtAIR can fly for several hours without interruption and will be able to operate safely, out of the line of sight of a pilot, even over populated areas, enabling it to provide a range of services.

For example, with the addition of high-resolution cameras it will be able to transmit a live stream of spectacular aerial images of concerts or sporting events.

The airship can also be used to create 3D models and maps for navigation systems and autonomous vehicles.

It will also be able to assist the police and emergency services to ensure safety at major events and to remotely monitor places affected by natural or human-made disasters.

First unmanned airship controlled by 5G

Attendees at the Frankfurt Motor Show – which takes place until 22 September 2019 – can see the airship controlled even though it is flying 300 metres above the Vodafone Germany mobility lab in Aldenhoven hundreds of kilometers away.

In Aldenhoven Vodafone provides a complete 5G network including ‘network slicing’ which provides the airship with guaranteed bandwidth, meaning it will always respond to commands nearly instantly regardless of other demands on the network.


"Mobile communications are changing our mobility, making them smart and safe - on the road and in the air," said Vodafone Germany CEO Hannes Amestreiter.

"With 5G, we tailor made-to-measure local networks to provide guaranteed bandwidth and latency, such as remote control of airships, enabling new application scenarios from the air in the future, for securing large events or creating HD maps."

"It's clear that these innovations, as well as the city's new mobility concepts currently being developed by Airbus, will put even greater demands on infrastructure in the future. 5G plays a key role in our view, and we look forward to partnering with Vodafone to develop innovative 5G-based digital applications," said Peter Weckesser, Digital Transformation Officer at Airbus Defense and Space.


Airships and the digital society

Airships and the digital society

Vodafone and Airbus intend to build upon the creation of ALtAIR by jointly developing a range of 5G services so that airships such as these become commonplace in the digital societies of the near future.

  • 5G
  • Europe
  • Innovation
  • IoT

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