Verizon takes 5G Ultra Wideband to support research at Caltech and Penn State

US operator rolls out 5G to support innovation and research at Pennsylvania State University and mobile edge computing at the Caltech Centre for Autonomous Systems and Technologies

Verizon is rolling out its 5G Ultra Wideband to Pennsylvania State University and mobile edge computing to the Caltech Centre for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST) to support research in enhancing manufacturing and enabling smart drones to navigate weather.

At Penn State’s Innovation Park, Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network will allow researchers to explore how 5G can enhance manufacturing and enable new applications in education, training and workforce development. The deployment will make use of Penn State’s scientific, engineering, technology and business resources.

With 5G Ultra Wideband, students, faculty, startups and established companies can work together to test and innovate emerging technologies and explore solutions that can improve processes and automation in manufacturing. The effort aims to foster new research and development partnerships to improve commercial applications and workforce development through advanced wireless technologies and expand 3D printing access and education to Penn State students.

“We are excited to partner with Verizon to bring advanced digital connectivity to Penn State and enable new innovations in digital connectivity,” said Tim Simpson, Paul Morrow professor of engineering design and manufacturing and co-director of the Centre for Innovation Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D). “Having 5G capabilities in CIMP-3D creates unique opportunities to drive the use and adoption of additive manufacturing as we embark on the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0.”

Meanwhile, at CAST, engineers are exploring how Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, mobile edge compute and artificial intelligence (AI) can help drones detect, interpret and respond to changing weather conditions in real time.

Verizon has deployed its 5G Ultra Wideband network and edge compute platform at the site and researchers are testing how the low latency, high speeds and massive capacity of 5G and edge compute can be used to offload the heavy computing hardware that AI usually requires from a drone to the edge of the network, allowing for near-real-time interpretation of weather data and near-instantaneous in-flight adjustments. 

To recreate the ever-shifting environmental conditions that drones face in the real world, the lab features a three-storey aerodrome with more than 2,500 tiny computer-controlled fans that allow engineers to simulate anything from a light gust to a gale. It can also be tilted 90 degrees to simulate vertical take-offs and landings. The custom fan wall, designed and built by Caltech graduate students, was also used as the blueprint for building the fan wall that tested the Mars Ingenuity helicopter at JPL, which Caltech manages for Nasa.

Verizon is providing funding for the one-year drone research project, as well as several 5G devices and consultation on 5G technology and hardware. “By collaborating with CAST researchers, we hope to accelerate the innovation process and development of unmanned aerial vehicles that can autonomously navigate using 5G, edge compute and AI,” said Nicki Palmer, chief product development officer at Verizon.

“This research project is just the tip of the iceberg of what we hope to see tested. The facility and areas of exploration that CAST is working on represent the types of use cases that 5G can really take to the next level.”

The two engagements are part of Verizon’s broader strategy to partner with enterprises, startups, universities, national labs and government/military to explore how 5G can disrupt and transform nearly every industry.

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