Qualcomm unveils first 5G and AI-compatible drone platform

Two drones flying over a cityscape while the sun sets
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Qualcomm has launched the world’s first autonomous drone platform, and reference design, that offers both 5G and AI capabilities to boost the development of drones for commercial purposes and enterprises.

The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform, build on the foundations of the firm’s premium robotics platform, offers computing at low power with AI, 5G and long-range Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.

This system aims to enhance the development of commercial, enterprise and industrial drones while unlocking innovation within industries hoping to adopt drones in some capacity.

“We have continued to engage many leading drone companies, enabling 200+ global robotics and drone ecosystem members in addition to consistently driving and promoting worldwide drone standardisation and transformative 5G capabilities,” said senior director for business development and general manager of autonomous robotics, drones and intelligence machines at Qualcomm, Dev Singh.

“We are proud to continue our momentum of enabling the digital transformation of global industries by unveiling the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform, a solution that is purpose-built for drone development with enhanced autonomy and intelligence features, bringing premium connected flight capabilities to industrial, enterprise and commercial segments.”

The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform offers high performance at ultra-low power consumption, which provides sufficient efficiency at the edge for AI and machine learning (ML) to render drones fully autonomous. Camera capabilities, described as a breakthrough, also deliver sharp images and improved performance against existing technology.


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Advanced connectivity in the form of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, meanwhile, allows flying abilities beyond the visual line-of-sight to support safer and more reliable flights over long distances.

Overall, the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform aims to condense several complex technologies into a single tightly integrated drone system to support evolving applications and all kinds of new use cases.

The sectors in which this new system can be deployed include film and entertainment, security and emergency response, delivery, defence, inspection and mapping.

Qualcomm is working with Verizon to complete network testing of the platform for the Verizon 5G platform in the US, with the 5G mmWave platform set to be offered through the Verizon Thingspace Marketplace.

The reference design is available for presale now, with the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G development kit available in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.