Citymesh deploys Nokia turnkey 5G-connected drone platform for emergency services

Comms tech provider’s drone platform to offer secure 5G-connected drone services across Belgium, with remotely managed, real-time aerial data collection to allow emergency services to make informed responses

Just weeks after launching what it said was the first CE-certified, turnkey drone-in-a-box (DiaB) offering, designed to meet the safety requirements of the European Union, Nokia has announced a first-of-its-kind contract with Belgian telecom operator Citymesh to supply its Nokia Drone Networks platform with 70 DiaB units to blanket Belgium with a 5G automated drone grid that informs and speeds resource mobilisation in emergency events.

Belgium’s emergency services can receive more than two million calls a year, and police and fire brigades are typically dispatched with incomplete data that can stymie the efficiency of their response.

Branded Sense, the 70 drones will be deployed in 35 emergency zones across the country, and gather information in the critical 15-minute period immediately following a call. This is designed to ensure first responder teams are fully apprised of and equipped to respond to each unique situation. In what is said to be a world-first deployment, pilots will be able to operate 24/7 and dispatch drones from docking stations strategically located across the country.

The Nokia Drone Networks service connects over public and private 4G/LTE and 5G networks to enhance situational awareness for first responders and other professionals, and allow customers to benefit from optimal reliability. Nokia adds that using cellular connectivity technologies also offers higher data rates and lower latency, enabling more data to be streamed than over Wi-Fi.

The service is manufactured in Europe, and comprises Nokia drones, docking station, dual gimbal camera and edge cloud processing using Nokia MX Industrial Edge (MXIE). Introduced in February 2023, MXIE is designed to allow enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation beyond connectivity and support operational technology data applications and workloads. It is based on a Dell PowerEdge XR11 server to increase the platform’s processing power and handle demanding workloads.

When used in conjunction with Nokia MXIE, data from Nokia drones can be collected and processed in real time at the edge cloud. An open API framework allows agencies and enterprises to onboard pre-integrated Nokia and third-party applications and systems, and take advantage of a growing number of public safety and Industry 4.0 use cases for drone automation, including object identification, tracking and network measurements.

In this latest deployment, the drones will be equipped with high-definition and artificial intelligence-enhanced thermal imaging to capture real-time aerial footage – such as smoke plumes, fire parameters, and number and location of people – and transfer it to control centres even before emergency teams have had time to leave. These aerial images are essential to identifying a plan of action that can save lives and limit damage to affected assets and natural resources.

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Belgium-wide availability of Sense follows pilot projects in the Fluvia fire brigade in Kortrijk, Brussels Airport Company, Port of Antwerp-Bruges, and the city of Genk, with the support of the Federal Public Service Economy.

“Sense is a great example of how technology can save lives,” said Citymesh Safety Drone general manager Hans Similon. “We’ve been impressed with Nokia as our partner for reliable wireless connectivity and an outstanding turnkey drone-in-a-box solution that we can customise to our specific needs. Together, we’re making Belgium safer and proving just how innovative we are as a nation.”

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