October 13, 2023
BT has launched a SIM card for drones, a move that effectively launches its drones service to business customers.
The UK incumbent seems to be on a mission when it comes to drones, having carried out a number of trials this year and commissioned research into the subject. It even has a director of drones. And now it is ready to hit the market.
BT notes that it is the first in the UK to launch a commercial drone SIM. While that may seem like a pretty thin claim, it’s important to note that there is some technology advancement here. This is not a case of a mobile operator – the SIM uses EE’s network, incidentally – having the idea of sticking a SIM card in a drone and calling it a new business area.
Drone SIM, as the product has been dubbed, was developed in conjunction with a number of commercial drone operators, BT explained. It is built to withstand the vibration associated with drone flight, as well as temperature and humidity extremes.
“Following the successful trials of our Drone SIM over the past year, this announcement is a huge stepping stone in bringing drone connectivity to businesses across the UK, unlocking potential for more efficient processes, business transformation and, with the ability to power search and rescue missions and medical deliveries, helping to save lives,” said Dave Pankhurst, Director of Drones at BT, in a statement.
Back in January BT announced plans to invest £5 million in the creation of a UK drone superhighway, alongside Altitude Angel, and a few months later carried out a successful trial of drone-based medical deliveries with Skyfarer and Medical Logistics, using what we now know as Drone SIM.
This summer it commissioned a report from GSMA Intelligence into the UK’s position in the global drones market. Essentially, the study showed that the UK is falling behind other global players when it comes to drones; “the race for drone innovation,” BT and the GSMA called it. As such, the telco called for better regulation to support the industry and facilitate investment.
Naturally, with Drone SIM in the pipeline, BT had a vested interest in pushing for a more conducive regulatory environment. It also stands to reason that it would be keen to share the statistic that, according to research carried out in March, UK consumers are fully supportive of the development of the drones space. Apparently, 75% believe it is essential for drones to be used for public service delivery and two-thirds agree that drones could have a positive impact on their lives.
Hmm. It would be interesting to see how those questions were actually phrased. Because while there is a clear case for the use of drones for delivering medical supplies quickly – and that’s one of BT’s top use cases – the thought of the skies being full of unmanned aerial vehicles delivering takeaways and fast fashion is a little unnerving for most.
The transportation of goods is a potential market for drones as far as BT is concerned. As is the use of the technology for infrastructure-monitoring – that’s pylons and so forth – which somehow feels more worthy. But ultimately it will be up to BT’s customers to decide what they will use Drone SIM for.
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