mm-Wave Technology Enables Long Distance Communication Using Drones

SECOM and Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have developed a millimeter wave wireless communication system that enables long distance communication, and has succeeded in transmitting 4K uncompressed video in real time from a drone.

SECOM is focusing on services for securing wide area facilities by using wireless communication technology for drones. Wide area surveillance with drones requires real-time transmission of high definition video such as uncompressed 4K videos providing the professional resolution, for rapid and accurate analyses.

Tokyo Tech has been working on millimeter wave wireless communication systems including 5G-MiEdge1 project. The research results from 5G-MiEdge project were applied for design and development of the video transmission over millimeter wave wireless links.

Millimeter wave wireless communication is expected to be used in 5G, to enable high-speed communications, but there is a problem -communication distances are limited due to large attenuation of radio waves at these high frequencies. SECOM and Tokyo Tech have been conducting joint research since 2018 under the framework of the SOFTech2 Consortium for the development of a millimeter-wave wireless communication device capable of long-distance transmission of images using a lens antenna developed by Intel.

Lens antennas enable long distance communication by narrowing the emission angle of radio waves. However, they have not been used for drones due to their size and weight. To address this problem, the engineering team from SECOM and Tokyo Tech developed a video transmission system with a millimeter wave wireless communication device that uses a small, lightweight lens antenna that can be mounted on a drone. With it, they realized real-time transmission of 4K uncompressed video. Delay using the system is also dramatically reduced compared to conventional compressed transmission.

In their tests, the team was able to use a drone to take video in 4K and transmit the video in real time from over 100 m in the air to an access point on the ground. This technology enables the provision of "safe and secure" services in various fields, such as stadium security, and infrastructure monitoring by drones.