Hogan Lovells assists Vodafone in first European trial of Mobile Tracking and Control Technology for long distance drone flights

Hogan Lovells has assisted Vodafone Group in the first successful trial in Europe demonstrating how mobile networks could support the European Commission’s vision of safe long distance drone flights. Regulators will need technology support to ensure drones are constantly monitored when flying ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) and to enforce no fly zones around sensitive buildings (including schools, hospitals, prisons, government buildings and chemical plants).

Representatives of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Commission observed the latest trials of Radio Positioning System (RPS) at a Vodafone test facility in Aldenhoven. To perform the trial, Hogan Lovells helped Vodafone secure an exemption under the German Regulation for the Operation of Unmanned Aircraft*, which came into force in April 2017. Permission to fly was granted by the applicable regional aviation authority, the Bezirksregierung Dusseldorf. 

Vodafone’s RPS uses a 4G modem and SIM attached to a drone, enabling a self-learning artificial intelligence system to calculate the position of the drone. The system will be able to automatically indicate if a drone seems to have veered off an agreed flight path, safeguarding aircraft, civilians, sensitive facilities and other drones.

Falk Schöning, partner in the Brussels office of Hogan Lovells, who worked on the Vodafone project, said:

"With the increase in mass use of technology and artificial intelligence, our clients face new regulatory challenges globally. The German Regulation for the Operation of Unmanned Aircraft has only been in place for a year and so is a new framework for authorities. We are pleased that we can offer to clients not only the leading commercial drones practice in the U.S., but also our assistance in Europe and globally in new fields of regulation such as unmanned aircraft systems".

Vodafone is currently scoping out two further phases of trials which are expected to test features including geo-fencing (the ability to block drones from entering no-fly zones), implementation of different authority levels when accessing location information and flight plans, and the tracking of drones with 5G.

* Verordnung zur Regelung des Betriebs von unbemannten Fluggeräten

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