Skip to main content

In the modern lexicon, pilotless aircraft are known as “drones”. In English, the term has long referred to male honeybees. Unlike worker bees, who gather nectar and pollen, a drone’s only function is to mate with an unfertilized queen bee. According to military historian Steven Zaloga, the term has been applied to pilotless aircraft since 1935. Admiral William Standley of the United States Navy saw a demonstration of the Royal Navy’s new remote-control aircraft, the DH 82B Queen Bee. This pilotless aircraft was controlled from the ground and used for target practice. Adm. Standley charged Commander Delmer Fahrney with developing something similar for the U.S. Navy. In homage to the Queen Bee, Fahrney adopted the name ‘drone’ to refer to these aircraft.

The first drones, comprising a kite, a balloon, and a camera, date back to the 1800s. For a long time, drones were used mainly for military purposes. Now, drones are also popularly used by hobbyists, and many companies are preparing for commercial usage of drones (for example, air delivery).

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is a more formal term for drones. An Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) may refer to the entire system needed to operate the UAV. The UAS includes the UAV itself, a ground control system, a camera, a positioning system, all the software and skills needed to operate the UAS, and tools required for maintenance. Wireless communication, which enables the ground control system to communicate with the UAV is a core component of the UAS. For Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) or other long-range operations, a cellular communication system may be necessary. Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) systems offer excellent benefits for UAS operation by providing high reliability, QoS, robust security, and seamless mobility. This paper will address 3GPP Release 15 enhancements for aerial User Equipment (UEs) and ongoing study progress for 3GPP Release 17.

download the whitepaper