Integrated skies Vehicle development Urban air operations

Cross sector partnerships are essential to succeed

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

For the development of the drone sector, it is essential to look beyond the boundaries of one's own field. It is not without reason that other sectors, such as the automotive and telecom sectors, are looking for more. For this reason, Alex Sinclair, CTO of the GSMA, representing the interests of mobile operators, recently took part in the Board of Recommendation of Amsterdam Drone Week.

Sinclair is honoured to join the Board of Recommendation. At the same time, it is a logical step. “We’ve been working with drones for about 5 years now. Also we have a collaboration with GUTMA. And Amsterdam Drone Week has similar goals as the ones we want to achieve. We run the largest mobile event and ADW the largest drone event, so there seems to be a natural fit.”

Collaboration between different industries is essential, according to Sinclair. “For example, we have been working with the automotive industry for over 10 years. In fact, there are even a few car manufacturers that are members of the GSMA. Both the car companies learn from us - the telecom industry - and vice versa. Of course it took some time to get to know one another and learn another sector but, the investment of time has paid off. The main goal is working together and learning how we each do business, what challenges we face and where there are untapped synergies.” Sinclair cites the banking sector as an example. “It's amazing what you can do when you share information. For the first time, 5G ensures that other sectors with new applications are coming to Telco’s instead of the other way around. In the past, we had to push new technology. But now manufacturers come to us with the request: this is what we need and we need it now. We now learn much better what the market needs and not what we think the market needs.”

The synergy the GSMA looks for in partnerships is ‘mobility’, says Sinclair. “That links all three of us: drones, cars and mobile phones: we are all mobile. But scale is our big thing. We know how to make things work globally and that’s where the interests for other sectors are as well. We’ve got more than three decades experience in that: bringing together very diverse stakeholders.” “Another good reason for collaboration is: we all are in very regulated industries. So it is important that we don't consider everything as a technology problem or a commercial problem, but ensure we consider the policy and regulatory aspects as well.” One of the things the drone industry can learn from the telecom sector is how to make a truly global system work. “Global and interoperable is in our DNA. Hopefully they learn that a little faster than we did, because it took us quite a while to get to a single cellular standard for the world”, Sinclair smiles with a sense of understatement. “But it is very important, because every industry ultimately needs scale. Remember that!"

One of the important foundations for flying UAVs safely and reliably is 5G. “The reason 5G is so important is because it's there. Here and now,” says Sinclair. “Then you are talking about 157 live networks in 62 countries. I'm not going to mention all the features of 5G here, they are quite well known. In my view, it is all about the development of the ecosystem. And if you're talking about unmanned vehicles of any kind - on the ground or in the air - and you want them to do what they are intended to do, you need so many different stakeholders. If they don't work together or have a good reason to work together, then you probably miss the full potential. Given the pace of innovation, I don’t know where we will land with all this, but it’s clear to me that airspace regulators and the general public have to be comfortable with all this. But there have long been very good examples of applications where drones really add something that we can use.”
According to Sinclair, a lot has to do with convenience. “As soon as people realize that a new technique has advantages and provides convenience, you get them on your side. Demonstrating stuff, demonstrating it is safe, overcoming the fears, but also demonstrating that it is useful and could be convenient in your life, that wins hearts and minds.”

While Sinclair is the first to admit he's not an air traffic control specialist, he's excited about Simon Hocquard's (CANSO) intention to lead the way in what Hocquard calls "a blueprint for future skies." “I think it's good that Simon, with his knowledge of air traffic control, has such a vision. Others can join in. But I also find it interesting that we in Europe are now taking the first step. At the same time, you have to pay close attention to the ultimate goal of a globally interoperable system, otherwise it will slip through your fingers. Fragmentation, even by accident, is the enemy of scale. And if you don't get the scale, your potential will remain untapped. But it is very important that the first steps have been taken.”

ADW Industry Update 1 July
Learn more on integrated skies? During the ADW Industry Update Alex Sinclair and Simon Hocquard will have a discussion on the topic “Creating a blueprint for future skies”. View the full programme here.


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