Unlocking the potential of Australia's low-altitude airspace - LAAM
5G | Tech and Innovation |

Unlocking the potential of Australia’s low-altitude airspace

By Andrew Scott March 6, 2019

We’re partnering with Thales to imagine a safe and secure ecosystem for the management of Australia’s low-altitude airspace.

Our partnership with Thales aims to make it safer for manned aviation vehicles and drones to collaborate and share airspace.

In recent years, drones have become incredibly popular for recreational and commercial use, but the technical capability to monitor and safely coordinate airspace traffic between drones and general aviation has not taken off as quickly.

Australia’s general and commercial aviation industry already has regulation and a robust technology platform to manage the airspace that passenger aircraft fly in. We want to bring that level of safety and security to low-altitude airspace to enable both recreational drone enthusiasts and commercial UAV operators to fly their craft with peace of mind. This type of system could also inform general aviation of the locations and intended flight paths of drones.

We’ve been exploring the potential of our 4G and 5G mobile technology, and our extensive long-range IoT networks, to enable monitoring of all kinds of vehicles in low-altitude airspace. We see a future where a drone operator might be able to simply plan and prepare a flight through an app on their phone and where authorities have the ability to dynamically open and close airspace using temporary flight restrictions if necessary.

The prototype air traffic control platform that we are developing with Thales, called Low Altitude Airspace Management (or LAAM), is capable of integrating both manned and unmanned aerial vehicles and providing automated drone flight approvals, amongst other features. The platform can also provide near-real-time notifications, which is helpful in managing dynamic, high-traffic areas. In situations where a drone pilot needs to change course to make room for a first responder such as a helicopter ambulance, near-real-time notifications enable the instructions to be relayed to the drone efficiently and safely. Our work with Thales will also allow the development of new products, services, and innovations in the UAV industry.

There are extraordinary opportunities for the widespread take-up of unmanned aerial vehicles in Australia. To unlock this potential, we are investigating how we can use our 4G and 5G mobile technology and IoT capabilities to make secure and reliable communication, navigation and monitoring of UAVs possible. Our work with Thales on LAAM, underpinned by continuous investment in and improvement of our networks around the country, proves that it’s possible for manned flights and UAVs to operate together effectively and safely in our skies.

Drone swarm - Telstra Vantage
Network | Telstra Vantage™ |

The Perfect Swarm: five drones, one pilot, and a mobile cell on wings

By Håkan Eriksson September 20, 2018

Extreme weather events, such as bushfires, cyclones and floods, have a devastating impact on people and communities in Australia. We are already using drones to inspect our network infrastructure and provide rapid assessments of any damage when disaster strikes to help us restore services faster.

As part of Telstra Vantage 2018 we took the opportunity to brief media on our new drone technologies that use our mobile network to assist authorities in disaster management situations. With 5G on the near horizon, we are working on how drones can be used to go even further in helping communities and governments manage and recover after a natural disaster.

Our new drone technology was trialled in the field earlier in September in Laverton, Victoria, where the Telstra Labs team executed a drone swarm and a mobile ‘cell on wings’ demonstration using 4GX on the Telstra mobile network.

The drone swarm is a group of drones controlled by a single pilot flying in formation and using vision capture to quickly and efficiently map an area impacted by fire or flood. As the technology matures, allowing for more than one drone per pilot, drone swarms will be able to be deployed routinely to simultaneously cover and search a large area – something that could save lives in an emergency rescue situation, and time and money in less dramatic situations.

Computer vision capability enables the cameras on the drones to identify specific objects, such as people and vehicles. This can help emergency services operators to locate people who require rescue, and also in assessing the overall scale of damage over a large area.

The ‘cell on wings’ is a mobile small cell mounted on a drone in order to temporarily boost mobile network coverage in a local area, which is particularly useful in emergency situations.

Telstra’s mobile network is an essential element in enabling the use of drones in emergency situations. The network allows us to quickly send and receive data from the drone, and allows the pilots to safely set up missions for multiple drones through a single platform with visibility and control over all the drones that are flying.

In the future, 5G will allow operators using this type of technology to run missions end-to-end with an extensive data uplink capability. This would mean being able to stream large sets of live data (such as high resolution video) back to operators in real time, and back to the server for even more intelligent decision making.

5G’s low latency will allow much more precise real time control over drones and other remotely-operated vehicles over the next decade.

Telstra is committed to being the leading enabler and communications backbone of the future safe and secure drone-based economy.

Telstra News |

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

By Chris Rittler March 19, 2018

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.

5G | Network |

Meet the 5G smart drones that could save your life

By Håkan Eriksson February 7, 2018

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.

Tech and Innovation |

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

By Håkan Eriksson January 16, 2018

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.


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.


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.


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”.


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…