Unique test − 5G‑equipped drone remotely controls forest machine

Tue 18 Jun 2024 08:43

With the help of a drone equipped with its own portable mobile base station, a forestry machine has, for the first time, been remotely controlled via 5G in an area with limited connectivity.

The test was carried out in a forest outside Västerås, central Sweden, as part of a research project involving Mid Sweden University, Telia, Ericsson, Skogforsk, SCA, Volvo CE and Biometria, co-funded by Vinnova and the program for Advanced Digitalization.

The project group passed a milestone in November 2021 when it was able to remotely control a timber loader at SCA’s Torsboda timber terminal outside Timrå in northern Sweden. After this success, the collaboration continued towards the next challenge – to be able to remotely control a forest machine in areas that lack coverage with the help of a drone equipped with 5G technology. At the beginning of May, tests were carried out in a forest area in Virsbo outside Västerås. The results are considered very successful.

- We can now establish that it is possible to connect and remotely control large vehicles via a drone, which in practice acts as a base station in the mobile network. This creates completely new and flexible opportunities to connect businesses that work in areas with insufficient network coverage. Apart from the forestry and agricultural industry, the technology can be used in disaster areas if normal mobile coverage is completely knocked out, says Magnus Leonhardt, Innovation Manager at Telia.

After a basic technical briefing, the forest machine was transported out to a clear-cut where it was connected using 5G technology mounted on a drone. During the test, the drone was located about 500 meters from the forest machine but had a coverage area of up to 3 km. The operator of the forest machine was in Skogforsk's remote control lab in Uppsala, just over 90 km away.

- In this test, we chose to remotely control a forwarder on a clearcut to test the connection via the drone. In the next step, we want to test connecting and remotely controlling a soil scarification machine, which is a much heavier machine that runs in inaccessible terrain. The goal for us is to improve the working environment for the operators, and soil scarification machine create a particularly shaky and tough environment, says Petrus Jönsson, researcher and deputy program manager at Skogforsk, who was involved in remotely controlling the forest machine during the test.

The project aims to investigate how drone technology and 5G technology could enable remote areas around Sweden to be worked with remote-controlled vehicles. Mid Sweden University's researchers are participating in the tests and studying, among other things, reliability and latency of data communication, something that is of great importance in remote control.

- We have collected data from the test with the drone and will now analyze and evaluate the results. We will also conduct comparative studies with other types of connections such as WiFi-based networks and explore further opportunities with 5G, says Professor Mattias O'Nils at Mid Sweden University.

Behind the research project, called "Robust wireless infrastructure for remotely controlled timber management", are Mid Sweden University, Telia, Ericsson, Skogforsk, SCA, Biometria and Volvo Construction Equipment. The research project is funded by the participating parties and by Vinnova and the Advanced Digitalisation Program.


Mattias O'Nils, project owner, professor and research leader Mid Sweden University Tel: 070-695 76 68, E-mail: mattias.onils@miun.se

Telia's press office 

Petrus Jönsson, Researcher and Deputy Programme Director, Skogforsk Tel: 070-528 85 83, E-mail: petrus.jonsson@skogforsk.se



The page was updated 6/18/2024