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From Melbourne to California in 140ms: the company that controls drones over the internet

Ventures

Posted on March 19, 2018

2 min read

Following Telstra Ventures’ recent investment, Cape CEO Chris Rittler reflects on the company’s journey to date and the opportunities presented by the commercial applications of drones.

In 2014 the founding of Cape Productions was met with great excitement from consumers, enterprises, analysts and, most importantly, snow enthusiasts.

We developed software that allowed for the safe production of ski videos via automated flight of off-the-shelf drones. If you skied at some of the top resorts in North America, you could pay between $US50 and $US150 to have a custom ski video made of you or your family.

For an encore, we enhanced our technology and created a public flying portal. Using this portal, any consumer could register to fly a drone equipped with Cape software over the internet via a web browser from their personal computer in the comfort of their own home to have a personal video experience like none other.

We went further and integrated our drone video technology with the Facebook Live API to live stream high-quality aerial video directly to Facebook, which was demonstrated during the lead-up to Mark Zuckerberg’s opening keynote address at the Facebook F8 summit in 2016.

Tens of thousands of users registered to fly drones and over 100,000 flights were successfully executed. Safe drone flight and usability of drones had enabled a mass market. We have continued to develop our innovative system since that point.

Customers are now using off-the-shelf drones connected to the Cape Cloud via the Cape App to fly drones remotely over the internet, increasing the effectiveness of their teams by utilising the safety features and ease-of-use offered by Cape Aerial TelepresenceTM. Use cases include construction, asset inspection, and public safety, with more being added every day.

Our investors believe that the commercial adoption of drones will increase dramatically with the usage of Cape software. Telstra Ventures invested in Cape’s Series A financing alongside two other investors, Google’s Gradient Ventures and Mitsui & Co.

We have identified Australia as a country that would benefit from the use of drones across a number of industrial and government verticals. Telstra Ventures has closely followed developments in drone technology based on feedback from customers regarding their desire to use drones, as well as our own drones program – including using drone technology to inspect some of Telstra’s many cell towers and structures.

Meet the 5G smart drones that could save your life

Network

Posted on February 7, 2018

3 min read

As we move closer to launching 5G, take a look at why the next generation of mobile technology will be a critical element powering new innovations to save lives on Australian beaches.

The family trip to the beach is an iconic tradition for many Australians – especially those who are lucky enough to live close (or close enough) to our famous coastlines. Beach safety is imprinted on many of us as children, the importance of respecting the ocean and following the directions of lifeguards.

However, there is always a level of risk when you choose to swim at the beach – and advanced technologies can play an important role in helping us manage this risk, to help keep as many people as safe as possible.

This week, we showed how the Telstra mobile network can be used to operate drones with object recognition capability that seeks to locate a missing person, using a familiar scenario – a missing teenager, swimming out of their depth and having difficulty returning to shore alone.

We are already seeing examples of drones being used by lifeguards to assist in rescue situations; our demonstration took this a significant step further by using AI-equipped drones that use video analytics to recognise people and objects automatically rather than this being done manually by a lifeguard.

Network connectivity is also the foundation for assisting drones to cooperate safely in the same airspace as rescue helicopters – a key advancement and crucial to show the roles drones play within an end-to-end rescue situation.

For this demonstration, 4G was used to create point to point video links from the drones back to the viewing area on the beach. With the advanced capability and scale offered by the incoming 5G technology, it will be possible for surf life saving organisations to execute these kinds of rescues at a much larger scale along the popular coastlines of Australia.

5G life-saving drone

4G makes it possible – and 5G will make it practical.

5G will deliver faster speeds and better experiences to mobile broadband and smartphone customers, but it will also be essential to underpin the expected increase in IoT connected devices over the next decade.

It will bring greater bandwidth, but also greater security and reliability with features designed for communications and control.

In the 5G-enabled future Telstra will be able to provide connectivity between all sorts of emergency and civilian vehicles whether they be on ground, sea or in the air. Our compute and analytics capability will be able to filter irrelevant information to deliver actionable intelligence to the people who manage life-saving incident responses.

We will also be able to provide communications networks to enable command and control of autonomous vehicles so that the low altitude airspace can be more safely managed for drones and the emerging aerial people carriers.

Drones are an important emerging technology, and will have many applications and impacts on our customers’ businesses and personal lives. In the CTO, our drones team are assessing how we can make Telstra’s networks and systems ready to assist and enable our customers to take advantage of this technology.

Read more about Telstra’s 5G leadership here.

Tags: 5g, Drones, networks,

The tech at CES 2018: The good, the bad, the mildly confusing

Tech and Innovation

Posted on January 16, 2018

5 min read

Fresh off the plane back from Las Vegas, our Chief Technology Officer Hakan Eriksson reflects on what he saw and heard at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show.

With Telstra working at the forefront of many different technologies, CES was a timely reminder for us to constantly think about how we can bring innovation into our customers’ lives. 2018 promises to be a big year, with 5G on the near horizon and our advancing work in areas such as IoT, big data and new technologies making great progress.

Home

The smart home is becoming smarter, and maturing from only being a network of independent smart devices to becoming a complete ecosystem – including artificial intelligence (AI) to help make your interactions with your smart home more effective.

At the same time, this means that many players that earlier had their niche in the home are now in competition, with all devices containing a microphone and a speaker, and becoming part of a meshed network.

Some companies are even starting to think about how their smart home solutions can deliver indoor coverage for 5G mobile networks.

5G

Predictably, there were still a lot of discussions around the use cases for 5G, with most ideas gravitating towards applications with short latency, and the follow-on opportunities presented by the distributed cloud and the potential for edge compute.

All across CES there were many references to 5G, with some major players making 5G the key theme of their show – and that’s not only the usual suspects like Ericsson and Qualcomm, but also companies like Intel. 4G is still going strong, with Qualcomm showing a Gigabit LTE Maserati at their stand.

Cars

Connected, driverless and electric cars have now made CES their home – separate to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which is the place for traditional vehicles with big muscle cars as the main attraction.

This year at CES, the latest concept cars from the big players like Toyota were shown, but also electrical and driverless “F1” cars that will take the battle of car-controlling software to the next level.

Drones and robots

Drones and robots were more impressive than ever at CES this year, coming in all shapes and sizes from palm-sized selfie stick competitors to helicopters. Drones are now also going underwater and can even catch fish for you. There was also a table tennis-playing robot that adjusted its skill level to its human opponent to make the game more interesting.

AR and VR

AR/VR and mixed reality was a bit of a disappointment. VR headsets are still big and heavy, and the resolution is still not really where it needs to be. It’s a very immersive feeling, but after a few minutes you still want to get out of the headset.

As for AR, the interaction with the applications was still quite clumsy – the best sign around the show floor that there was an AR demo going on was seeing someone trying to pinch the air in front of them in a desperate attempt to get the just-rebooted app to work.

Sight and Eye Control

A relatively new area, at least for consumer applications, is technology that can detect where you are looking. With more and more devices having integrated microphones, the devices now know when you are talking to them – but still don’t know when you are looking at them.

This technology has evolved from helping people with a disability to type by looking at the keys on the keyboard, and can now be used for better understanding how we read a web page including its ads, as well as assessing how alert a driver is.

The next step could very well be our devices at home – we will soon get tired of saying “OK Google, turn down the TV volume”, when it would feel more natural to just look at the TV and say “could you please be quiet”.

Health

The health sector was basically two segments – one focusing on all kinds of devices to monitor your health at home, mainly for those who already have an existing medical need, as well as various ways to make you sleep better.

One of the more odd devices at CES was an inflatable pillow combined with a microphone. It detected when you were snoring, then changed the shape of the pillow – with the assumption that you would stop snoring in the new position.

The other sector focused on a healthy lifestyle, mostly using different kinds of wearable devices and clothes with integrated sensors. An example was a smart helmet with built-in lights, microphone, and speakers – but also a G-force sensor that detected if you had fallen off your bike, and then called an emergency contact. There was also some connected sports underwear, which I still don’t understand.

And, of course, CES would not have been complete without the gyro-stabilised selfie stick…

Drone pilot gets his wings in Tasmanian telecommunications first

Network

Posted on October 19, 2017

2 min read

Last week Richard Ord underwent training to become a Telstra drone pilot technician, a Tasmanian telecommunication first.

Following a successful trial in Queensland and New South Wales, drones will now be used in Tasmania to better assess the suitability of new sites for infrastructure, improve safety for local employees and improve repair times in the event of extreme weather or natural disasters.

The use of drone technology brings a lot of benefits to the local community and to Telstra customers – providing safer working conditions and reducing network down time.

Previously technicians had to climb towers or bring in cherry pickers which takes time, particularly in regional areas where land may be uneven or muddy.

Every picture tells a story and it’s only when you see footage taken from a drone at the top of a mobile tower that you start to understand how high up technicians are working to ensure Telstra infrastructure is working.

Drones now mean this work can be done more safely and easily and, in the event new parts and equipment need to be ordered, this can be done immediately from the ground.

As technology evolves, its changing the way we all work and connect with friends and family. We know it’s important to stay in touch and our drone pilots can now get out and check Telstra towers safely and quickly.

This is particularly important after disasters as people seek to check in on friends and family and confirm they are safe.

With 9,000 mobile network sites around Australia, delivering coverage spanning 2.4 million square kilometres, our mobile network is the largest in the country.

The maintenance of our network is key to ensuring customers get the best possible service available and using drones is revolutionising the way we inspect base stations.

Tags: Drones, Network,

Drone images capture fire damage

Network

Posted on February 21, 2017

1 min read

Captured by Telstra’s UAV team pilots Clint Dickson and Steve Balding, these pictures of Broombee, in the central west of NSW, and of Wallaroo, near the ACT border, show how we are using drones during times of crisis to provide faster inspections of our infrastructure so that we can keep communities connected when they need it most.

While it’s a look at how we continually find new ways to respond to the needs of both our customers and emergency services, it also gives us a glimpse of some of the devastation that fires have caused across NSW.

This week we announced emergency assistance packages were available for residential and small business customers in Carwoola, near Queanbeyan, whose community was devastated by fire.

For many other communities across the country the threat of fire remains in place and it is timely that we thank the Rural Fire Service for the incredible work they have do.

We also wish to thank all our field staff and Telstra Country Wide teams who have been assisting communities impacted by fires across NSW.

Tags: Drones,