Vodafone Dressed a Drone Up Like Santa's Sleigh for the UK's First 4G Drone Delivery

By Tom Pritchard on at

For all the talk there's been about using drones to deliver things to people, there's been a distinct lack of progress making it happen. In fact the UK has only just managed to complete a single drone delivery using 4G, which shows how far things are from Jeff Bezos's dream of flying courier-free Amazon fulfilment. But even baby steps are progress, right?

The delivery in question was carried out by Vodafone, which used a drone dressed up like Father Christmas's sleigh to deliver a Christmas hamper to volunteers at Portland Bill Coastwatch. All the controls were done via a portable 4G router, as opposed to radio signals that require line of sight with an operator. Using 4G also means that the operator can monitor everything in real time.

Judging from the video it doesn't look like the drone had to fly very far to make the delivery, suggesting Vodafone hasn't made any massive breakthroughs with battery technology just yet. That said the network says this first test is first step towards using drones to deliver supplies to hard-to-reach areas. It also claimed that the low-latency of incoming 5G networks offers more opportunity for delivering in more densely-populated parts of the UK, with more responsive drones that can avoid all the obstacles you'd find in a built up area.

It's going to be a long time before the likes of Royal Mail replaces its delivery people with robots, but we're getting there. Assuming, of course, you can trust people not to attack delivery drones to try and pinch stuff. If we can't be trusted with dockless bikes I'm not sure people are ready for flying robots carrying expensive stuff.