Networking solutions are plentiful. From cellular-capable iPads to mobile hotspots, ruggedized WiFi antennas, and dedicated mobile networking stations, there are a host of options available.
DroneSense functions best with connections that provide at least 1 Mbps upload speed and 2 Mbps download speed per video feed.
Network stability and the overall quality of coverage will affect your connection, especially during times of high traffic. Therefore, it is central to the success of your UAS program to identify the internet service providers (ISPs) that best meet your needs. Some important questions to consider:
- Which provide the broadest areas of coverage?
- Which are best suited to deal with heavy network traffic, such as video?
- If your organization is eligible, is a First Responder focused network (like FirstNet) available?
- Does the ISP have a clear policy on data throttling for heavy use; and if so, do they have explicit policies for First Responders?
- What mobile hotspot devices do they offer or support?
In general, a new UAS program can do well with most off the shelf networking devices - unless the geographic area they are responsible for has limited cell coverage or challenging environments (such as mountains, canyons, or areas with lots of electrical interference from long transmission lines or similar).
For organizations that have to support more challenging environments, more robust network equipment might be the best option. DroneSense has been tested on a wide variety of network solutions such as mesh networks and satellite links. Organizations with specific deployment challenges are urged to contact DroneSense to speak with an expert to help identify how best to approach any potential connectivity-related issues.
Finally, there may be times where the best or only option is to fly offline. While OpsHub and video streaming functions won’t be available, DroneSense will always support offline flight and still will sync data back to ensure your program's data is always being properly managed.
Network Security and Firewall Configuration
Data security and network integrity are critical factors for any public safety UAS program. Many agencies operate in municipally managed environments, and often have tight security on their networks that limit access to the internet in some fashion, especially for video.
The DroneSense platform is optimized to reduce the amount of configuration required to access all functions of the platform. For most users on restricted networks, you will need to do the following:
- Whitelist web.dronesense.com to ensure emails and registration can complete
- Open ports 80 and 443 and whitelist dronesense-video.com for video streaming
For more restrictive environments, DroneSense Support will gladly work with you and your IT resources to ensure there are no issues with access or functionality.
First and foremost, find out the network options in your area. Be sure you have a clear understanding about how each ISP manages data usage. If FirstNet, Verizon Priority Access, or similar first responder network is available in your area, be sure to test it extensively to make sure it will be sufficiently responsive and can scale with your needs.
A streamlined approach is to set up a cellular data subscription on your WiFi+Cell iPad devices. This is often the simplest to set up and 4G operates on frequencies that are well separated from the drone control and video transmission frequencies.
For a more flexible setup, a simple mobile hotspot that supports dual SIM cards can typically provide more than adequate performance, and also afford the ability to switch providers should there be an issue with the network in a particular area or situation. The other advantage of off the shelf hotspots is that these devices are easier to replace. Relying exclusively on the cellular connection integrated in the tablet means that losing that device results in the loss of two important components in the communication channel between the drone and the rest of your program.