Big names in telecommunications have been quietly partnering with a hardware enabled network services startup called SqwaQ. Its patented technology promises to transition the drone industry not just beyond line-of-sight, but beyond city, county and state borders. Today, SqwaQ revealed that Sierra Wireless has been chosen as its primary supplier of cellular chipsets that will go in its SqwaQbox long-range drone command and control link.
The FAA recently began approving extended range drone flights beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight, but today’s drones rely on a WiFi connection. Those fail after a few miles, so moving forward all drones will need a better solution. Satellites provide unlimited range, but drones use a lot of bandwidth that would cost over $1,000 an hour. 4G LTE networks offer nationwide coverage but a single LTE connection cannot deliver enough bandwidth to support drone flights and there is no backup if it fails. Looking to the future, 5G networks won’t work for drones either. Unlike 4G cell towers, the 5G antennas have to point down toward the ground to work properly, so their signals cannot reach drones in the air.
SqwaQ has multiple patents issued on its SqwaQbox to solve this problem. According to this video, it “bonds” up to twelve 3G/4G connections together, then prioritizes, encrypts and scrambles all data it transmits. This gives drone pilots a fat, multi-redundant control link to support multiple pilot view cameras, sensors and flight control systems simultaneously. It’s also carrier agnostic, so the drone can use multiple cellular networks simultaneously, or switch networks as it changes work locations, to maximize signal strength and data throughput.
“It’s important to understand that we’re not a hardware company. SqwaQ is the secure network that can empower drones to fly thousands of extended range missions every day. We think that can grow to ten thousand a day by 2021 or 2022”, said Dr. Stephen Perkins, Founder and VP Software Engineering.