MobileCorp helps First Nations communities connect with country using 5G drones

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MobileCorp helps First Nations communities connect with country using 5G drones
Phill McSherry (MobileCorp)

The Gidarjil Development Corporation has struck a deal with Sydney-based telco solutions provider MobileCorp for the modernisation of its knowledge sharing activities through the use of drones and 5G connectivity.

The Bundaberg Queensland-based organisation, with the help of MobileCorp, is using the Telstra 5G public network and Cradlepoint 5G wideband edge routers to enable live streaming of high-definition video from drones operated by Gidarjil Development Corporation land and sea rangers.

The Gidarjil Development Corporation is responsible for various environmental and community projects as part of its ‘caring for country’ and ‘connecting with country programs’ including rainforest protection, weed management, the local traditional knowledge database, turtle conservation, reef monitoring and feral management.

The project, a 5G proof of concept for streaming high-definition video from underwater and aerial drones via the internet to a remote audience and giving Gidarjil Elders control of the underwater drones, will assist Elders in knowledge sharing.

The project is the recipient of a Federal Government 5G Innovation round 1 grant. A joint application was made by MobileCorp, the Gidarjil Development Corporation and two Queensland drone operators, Drone Training Solutions and SeeUnderSea.

MobileCorp is the technology lead and will manage the 5G connectivity aspects of the project including Telstra 5G network accessibility and configuration and deployment of the Cradlepoint 5G wideband adapter. The Cradlepoint NetCloud portal provides visibility and monitoring of the 5G network performance and allows remote troubleshooting and reporting.

The first milestone of the project took place at Bargara Basin, near Bundaberg last month. Gidarjil sea rangers operated underwater drones to film in traditional sea country and live stream to Gidarjil Elders. Land Rangers streamed video from aerial drones flying over the adjacent Mon Repos beach, home to the Mon Repos Turtle Conservation Centre. Bargara and Mon Repos are both served by a Telstra 5G base station broadcasting 5G in 850MHz and 3500MHz bands.

The next trial took place today at Ellis Beach, opposite Double Island, 30 km north of Cairns. The island has been known to and used by local First Nations people for thousands of years. It is believed to be the resting place of Gudju Gudju, a Rainbow Serpent, and there are many places of cultural significance along the coastline and in the reef area surrounding Double Island. Ellis Beach has access to a Telstra 5G tower broadcasting in 850MHz and 3500MHz bands.

The project will culminate with a demonstration live streaming into the 3-day AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) Summit in the Sunshine Coast from 31 May 2022.

The immediate use case for the project is to allow Gidarjil Elders to ‘connect with country’, and to share their knowledge and stories with the next generation.

The underwater drones can map traditional sea country and identify places of cultural significance such as midden, an area where, historically, Aboriginal people have gathered to eat shellfish and seafood. Elders can watch the video in real time instructing and guiding rangers, and can even remotely control the drone.

The Cradlepoint 5G wideband adapter

Gidarjil Elder, Aunty Melinda Holden, who was on-site for the Bargara POC, said “We don't have to walk on country because 5G is connecting us to country. Before, we learned our stories by sitting around the fires listening to our Elders. Now us modern Elders, we can share our knowledge with our young people through this new technology.”

Other use cases for video streaming from the Gidarjil drones are environmental and commercial and align with the tradition of ‘caring for country.’

Underwater drones monitor the health of sea grass meadows which is important to the diet of the Green Turtle. The drone streaming video in real-time can identify healthy crops which allow for the immediate collection of seed samples which will be used to propagate and regenerate sea grass.

Other uses include reef health monitoring, coral counting, and water quality sampling. Live streaming from aerial drones can be used during cultural burns, for noxious weed surveillance, and for feral animal management.

Double Island, Queensland

Gidarjil Development Corporation CEO Kerry Blackman said, “This 5G project has the potential to deliver important commercial, environmental, employment and social opportunities to our people and also to the wider North Queensland community.”

“The ability to stream HD video from aerial and underwater drones will develop a new way to bring our traditional land and sea country to a wider audience, and for our Elders to connect with country and with our young people. It will also advance the economic prospects and employment prospects of our young people and the region and help us do what we need to do to look after our land and sea country. This is cutting edge technology. It's not only leading the way for us, but for the whole of the Bundaberg Gladstone region.”

MobileCorp managing director Stephen Aravopoulos said, "This is an example of how 5G innovation has the potential to change lives. As Cradlepoint’s APAC Growth Partner of the Year and Telstra’s Innovation Partner of the Year, MobileCorp is at the forefront of helping Australian organisations like the Gidarjil land and sea rangers use 5G to solve real life problems."

Phill McSherry MobileCorp CTO assembling the Cradlepoint W2005

MobileCorp CTO Phill McSherry said, “MobileCorp's role in this project was to lead the Grant application process and having been successful, is to now provide technical expertise around 5G connectivity and network security. We manage the 5G connectivity utilising Telstra's public 5G network and Cradlepoint’s world-leading 5G wideband adaptors with NetCloud management.”

Cradlepoint head of APAC Nathan McGregor told CRN, “The increased performance of 5G is enabling the delivery of solutions that we could previously only imagine. The Cradlepoint range of indoor and outdoor 5G wireless adapters, such as the IP67 rated, metal-cased W2005 used here, provide the critical connectivity foundation, and simplified cloud-based management capability needed to drive our integration partners’ success.

“It enables them to build solutions that are unencumbered by the limitations of yesterday, and instead focus on using technology to solve the problems of tomorrow.

“MobileCorp was able to successfully demonstrate the value of 5G connectivity for this fantastic project, connecting the Cradlepoint adapters with the drone technology used by the customer, to enable fast video upload and download, using Telstra’s 5G signal.”

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