Japan city, Nokia break new ground in the use of drones

Drones can also be flown over populated areas with limited risk. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Japan’s Sendai City and 5G network provider Nokia have successfully conducted world’s first ever test flight of a drone on a private LTE (Long Term Evolution) network.

They tested the potential use of drones during a tsunami or other disasters to help in prevention and mitigation efforts.

The test verified that using a private LTE network to control and communicate with the drones is an effective means for enhancing situational awareness and communicating with the affected population during a disaster.

John Harrington, Head of Nokia Japan told Digital magazine that the test highlighted the effectiveness of using drones and private LTE for disaster prevention and mitigation.

“Nokia Drone Networks has been adopted by the Red Cross in the Philippines as a social infrastructure for disaster relief operations. Based on this demonstration, we hope to contribute to disaster prevention and mitigation for Sendai City and other local governments in Japan,” he said


Sendai City is the centre of Tohoku Region, Japan, and lies northeast of Tokyo on Honshu Island, with a population of over 1 million.

The coastal areas were devastated by the tsunami caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, and have come to be recognized internationally through the United Nations as a symbol of disaster risk reduction and reconstruction.

In the verification test, it was assumed that a major tsunami warning would be issued in the coastal area near the Minami-Gamo Water Treatment Ceter in Miyagino Ward, Sendai City.

Nokia deployed a private LTE network near the Minami-Gamo Water Treatment Center using its plug-and-play digital automation cloud technology.

Using speakers, HD cameras and thermal cameras mounted on Nokia drones, the testers delivered recorded real-time voice messages and conducted aerial monitoring using HD and thermal camera video streaming from the drones.

During the simulated disaster, the testers were able to issue a major tsunami warning to evacuees in coastal areas through the drone speaker, and monitor the tsunami arrival zone and coastal areas through drone camera images.

They also guided people to evacuation sites using the drone to convey directions, and monitored the movements of evacuees using the drone camera.

The test also highlighted how first responders can facilitate disaster prevention and mitigation without risk to the personnel managing the evacuation activities.

"The use of these drones seems to be very effective in ensuring the safety and security of Sendai and its surrounding areas. We can now respond faster and provide better information to the people in the most affected areas during a potential disaster,” said Sendai Mayor Kazuko Kohri.

Nokia Drone Networks is a turnkey solution consisting of one or several drones equipped with gimbals with HD and thermal cameras, a private LTE wireless network, a drone flight command and control centre, and video analysis applications.

Private LTE/4G provides seamless and secure connectivity, making it more suitable for mission-critical use cases than the mostly Wi-Fi-based technology used in public mobile networks.

The high-performance, low-latency connection provides optimized coverage for the drones, ensuring sufficient capacity for video streaming across wide areas and enabling secure information processing.

Drones can also be flown over populated areas with limited risk and with better control in difficult weather conditions.