Drone racing is picking up speed as a new and exciting sport, and T-Mobile wants in. The US carrier is investing an undisclosed amount in the Drone Racing League, the most visible drone racing program in the world with live TV broadcasts on major sports networks. But T-Mobile isn’t sending just money: it’s packing 5G radios into the drones themselves.
This isn’t a promotional stunt—or at least, not only a promotional stunt. According to the press release, T-Mobile and DRL will “create the first integrated 5G racing drones, with the aim of authentically building them into the sport.” The first drones packed with 5G radio technology will debut during the 2021 DRL Allianz World Championship Season next year.
How exactly will 5G benefit racing drones, which already use low-latency connections to pilots’ wireless controllers and head-mounted displays? T-Mobile isn’t being specific. Its promotional page is full of 5G applications for drones in different scenarios, and talk about how low latency is essential for drones and the sport’s broadcasting system, but technical details on exactly what the 5G radios will be used for isn’t spelled out. It’s possible it could be used to give extra video feeds from the drones to the broadcasters and the audience without interfering with the pilots’ existing control and video systems.
Whatever the actual application, it’s clear that both T-Mobile and DRL see a value in this partnership. At the time of writing, exact dates for the 2021 DRL Allianz World Championship Season aren’t available.