DoT to trial drones, balloons for 5G connectivity in emergencies –

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What’s the news: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) may invest in drones and tethered balloons to restore 5G connectivity during emergencies and natural calamities, reported Economic Times.

According to the report, DoT will likely conduct trials in the coming months towards this idea and make a decision by June 2025. The government is considering drones and balloons as an alternative to setting up new mobile towers and even use them for situations like accidents. The move would be beneficial for DoT’s disaster management unit, which is responsible for uninterrupted communication during and after disasters. This includes ensuring network connectivity, providing early warnings to users, and implementing automated priority call routing during emergencies, said the report.

While the report does not share further details, the use of a drone would, in theory, have an edge over other means like satellite connections, etc. For one, drones are often designed for surveillance in difficult terrains and even in windy areas which means the technology could be used during storms as well.

However, its impact on people and privacy would depend on how the government defines “emergency” and how long would this form of telecom connection persist “after the emergency.” For example, when the Post Office Act was passed by the government in 2023, Opposition members raised concern that a “public emergency” was listed as grounds for intercepting/ opening/ disposing a post parcel even though the draft Bill did not define what counts as an emergency. MPs argued this is an invasion of privacy. Similarly, drones are popularly used to monitor an area. Unless terms like “emergency” are clearly defined, this technology could potentially invade people’s privacy.

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