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Verizon Launches Robotics Business Technology Unit for Ground Robots, Aerial Drones

Telecommunications provider plans to expand its enterprise robotics offerings for infrastructure, logistics, and other applications.

Rima Qureshi, chief strategy officer at Verizon, discusses the potential of 5G for robotics and drones at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2021.

Verizon last week announced the formation of a Robotics Business Technology unit to expand enterprise offerings for aerial drones and ground robots. The New York-based telecommunications provider has been encouraging the development of systems that use its 5G networking and mobile edge compute (MEC) capabilities.

“Enterprises in many industries are adopting drones and ground robots to gather data, survey and monitor infrastructure, and automate logistics operations,” said Mariah Scott, head of Robotics Business Technology at Verizon. “By integrating these fleets with one operational platform and leveraging Verizon’s advanced connectivity solutions, businesses can speed up time to insight, increase automation of their operations, and deliver greater value.”

Robotics Business Technology to build on 5G

As a part of New Business Incubation at Verizon, Robotics Business Technology will focus on creating integrated systems that use Verizon's 5G and MEC capabilities to help enterprise customers efficiently deploy, manage, and scale mixed fleets of drones and robots. The company demonstrated a quadruped robot and a wheeled model running on 5G at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month and discussed the need for interoperability (see video below).

“Robots are a critical aspect of the 5G future,” said Elise Neel, vice president of New Business Incubation at Verizon. “The formation of this new business unit will accelerate the symbiotic relationship between humans and machines, paving the way for Verizon to transform the way businesses approach innovation and the future of work.”

“Our talented team of roboticists will leverage the power of Verizon’s network, paired with the sophistication of next-generation software, to orchestrate and unify robotic experiences,” she added. “This work will help deliver on the promise of making the fourth industrial revolution a reality.”

Verizon said its 5G technology will enable high-bandwidth, low-latency applications such as teleoperation, augmented and virtual reality, easier programming, and computing on the fly. This could advance industrial automation, telepresence, surgical robotics, and infrastructure inspections, according to the company.

Verizon consolidates drone, AMR units

The new Robotics Business Technology unit includes Skyward, a drone management company in Portland, Ore., that Verizon acquired in 2017. At CES 2021 in January, Verizon and partners Skyward and UPS announced connected drone deliveries to The Villages, a retirement community in Florida that has tested a number of autonomous systems.

More recently, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Skyward to test cellular-connected drones and software for complex operations such as beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights and universal traffic management (UTM).

The FAA is also working with American Robotics Inc. and Scientific Applications & Research Associates Inc. (SARA) on applying SARA's acoustics-based collision-avoidance technology with American Robotics' Scout drones.

In February, Verizon said it would acquire incubed IT, which has built software providing autonomous navigation tools for managing mixed fleets of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in industrial settings. Robotics Business Technology will also include a team focused on automating command and control of robots on Verizon’s 5G Ultra-Wideband network.

In May, Verizon said its New Business Incubation division would support developments in AMRs.

Robotics Business Technology said it will provide connected robotics systems to existing and future customers for indoor and outdoor use cases in manufacturing and logistics, commercial construction, oil and gas, energy and utilities, and the public sector and the media.

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