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Drone delivery takes flight with IoT network reliability

Learn how drone delivery service, Aurora Aerial, is taking off across Canada with Rogers Business as the wind beneath their wings.

drone carrying package flying in the sky next to a building

“They tried to sell me private APN network solution totalling about $10,000,” says Alan Tay, co-founder and CEO of Aurora Aerial, about a major telco who quoted him on a solution to get his company’s drones from Point A to Point B. “We’re a startup, so $10,000 is not something you can just throw away. But with Rogers Business, I could try things out and then talk later.”

Aurora Aerial is an innovative custom drone manufacturer based in Winnipeg, but with nationwide ambitions and growing partnerships in BC, Alberta and Ontario. “Currently, most drones can only carry five kilograms worth of deliverables,” says Alan. “But our enterprise drones allow us to carry up to 10 kilograms.” However, it’s not just the weight their drones can carry that give Aurora Aerial their competitive edge; it’s also the distance their drones can fly. “Typically, you’re only allowed 20 minutes of flight time,” says Alan. “That means you only have 10 minutes to fly out, and 10 minutes to fly back. But the processes that we have built with our partner operators allow us to go from one landing point to the next, extending the distance we can fly.”

Of course, ensuring a drone can get where it’s supposed to requires a continuous Internet of Things (IoT) connection—but getting that is easier said than done.

“Rogers Business has advanced network technology.”

While conducting tests to prepare for a client demonstration in Manitoba, Alan and his team leveraged the network of yet another major telco much to their chagrin. “We found that once we got up to about 350 feet, the connection failed,” he says. “We didn’t regain connectivity. We figured it might be the angle of the antennas on their towers.” Alan explains general latency of the telco’s service was also a problem. “Latency with them was about 800 milliseconds, but for our drones to fly properly, we can tolerate no more than 300 milliseconds of latency.” Losing IoT connectivity mid-flight triggers the drone to make its way back to the takeoff site—a frustrating outcome to say the least.

However, with the Rogers Business LTE network, the result was seamless. “Rogers Business has advanced network technology,” says Alan. After being given four SIM cards to try out, the difference was immediately obvious. “In both Alberta and Manitoba,” says Alan, “we are able to bring latency down to just under 300 milliseconds.” Rogers Business also provides an intuitive cloud-based customer portal, Rogers Control Centre, through which clients like Aurora Aerial gain acute visibility into the network. “It gives us a lot of the analytics we need to see the data transfer rate,” says Alan. Providing such real-time insights allows Alan and his team to immediately pinpoint and improve any connectivity issues that might emerge.

“They are open to working on new projects and learning how to make things better for us rather than putting money first.”

But, as Alan points out, it’s not just the strength and visibility of the network that makes Rogers Business reliable. “The team has been very responsive,” he says. “They are open to working on new projects and learning how to make things better for us rather than putting money first.”

Given his positive experience, Aurora Aerial has also signed up for wireless plans with Rogers Business, including Rogers Unison, which, among other features, can direct customers with automated answering or route calls between team members’ devices until someone picks up. “We’re setting up our customer support function and we’re hiring salespeople,” says Alan, “and being able to route calls the way Rogers Unison does is useful since we’re often out in the field instead of the office.”

As Aurora Aerial grows, Alan looks forward to a flourishing relationship with Rogers Business, particularly with the ongoing rollout of 5G, which will further reduce latency and increase the efficiency of the drones. “We’re looking forward to getting the Rogers Business 5G network integrated into our aircraft,” says Alan. “There are of lot of clients we’ll be testing for, and we look forward to demonstrating what we’re capable of. But to do that confidently, we need the reliability Rogers Business can provide.”