Find out how multiple cloud and edge technologies need to be orchestrated to keep drones in flight and under control.

Drone technology has opened up a myriad of opportunities and efficiencies across a range of industries.

However, to ensure seamless operation of these software defined vehicles (SDV), steep connectivity prerequisites have to be constantly met and maintained. This includes a robust infrastructure for the operation of location, ambient and flight operation sensors and various smart connectivity electronics and processor circuits that collate data on commonly taken routes, send data to the cloud data centers, receive instructions from ground control systems, and so much more.

What technologies form the backbone of drone versatility and reliability? What considerations must drone operators keep fixated on, in order to remain compliant with data privacy and cybersecurity concerns?

To answer these questions, DigiconAsia had the chance to interview Ivo Ivanov, Chief Executive Officer, DE-CIX International on the subject of keeping automated drones seamlessly connected to earth.

DigiconAsia: What infrastructural requirements allow for the seamless operation of automated drones?

Ivo Ivanov, Chief Executive Officer, DE-CIX

Ivo Ivanov (II): To ensure the greatest level of drone resilience in linking to external resources (such as cloud-based applications and AI analytics), we need network density, diversity and dense geographical coverage of access points to interconnection services, in combination with state-of-the-art connectivity and interconnection infrastructure.

Redundancy is key to resilience: that means not only having a multi-cloud strategy, but also applying multi-X strategies to network provision and data center operation.

Digital infrastructure must be conceived of as a distributed infrastructure involving a diversity of providers and multiple redundant pathways. This creates the resilience necessary for critical applications and data, enabling use-cases like intelligent drone-based logistics to operate seamlessly and fault-free.

DigiconAsia: Keeping drones connected and cybersecure across long distances sounds complicated. Can you elaborate on the complex requirements needed?

II: The wireless networks that connect to the drones need to be properly connected to digital resources at the other end, such as to the drone’s systems for the analysis of data gathered by the sensors. This also includes connections to a multitude of clouds for a variety of functions (from cloud-based workloads to big data analysis), but also to systems offering real-time data (e.g. the best route to reach destination). Other parameters involve:

  • All of the services required for drone control will be housed in data centers of varying sizes and locations, some small edge data centers close to the location of the drones (for real-time applications); others more distant and serving larger regions (for less time-sensitive use-cases). And all of these need to be intelligently interconnected with 5G and other wireless networks that keep the drones connected.
  • Fiber and Low Earth Orbit satellite networks are also important: data centers need to be connected via high-speed data routes to excellent interconnection services in such a way that the various stakeholders can access and deliver the data relevant for their services. For this to work, organizations not only need a robust multi-cloud strategy, but they must also be able to access their chosen clouds from physically separated locations, which dramatically increases the resilience of connections and ensures continuous access to critical data.
  • In addition, direct connections are more secure than traditional pathways to the cloud (which normally travel via the public Internet), and they also ensure the shortest pathway, which means that data does not have to travel as far to its destination.
  • By connecting with an ecosystem in a “closed user group” (CUG) set up on an interconnection platform, the drone operator can ensure secure exchange of data with their chosen partners in an exclusive environment completely removed from the public Internet, with the added advantages of ensuring the shortest pathways for data to travel.

In the larger scheme of things, the key requirements are for reaction time (latency) to be lower and for drones to be able to send and receive data much more quickly, in the low-millisecond range. On a well-secured private network, the attack vectors are limited, but any delays in the connectivity can have safety implications.

DigiconAsia: What considerations are important for drone operators?

II: In today’s pandemic environment drones are invaluable considering that they can be used to deliver test samples and medical supplies, conduct temperature-checks, disinfect public spaces, broadcast safety announcements and more — especially in remote or hazardous areas.

However, the highly valuable data collected by a connected drone forms the core of data privacy considerations. It is important to set the right level of protection for this data: both mandatory and consent-driven protection. All players along the specific value chain (for example, medical logistics) involved in sharing data generated by the drone or providing data to the drone, need to have processes for encrypting and anonymizing data by default, as well as for minimizing the chances of any data breaches, either when the data is at rest on the server or when it is in transit between partners.

Also, not only must the connectivity to each of these players be secure — it must also be of the highest resilience and the lowest latency, enabling low millisecond response times in a moving drone.