Vodafone today announced a ground-breaking trial to police Britain's skies and track drone activity.
Because drones are too small to be monitored by convention radar they represent a risk to aircraft which cannot spot them.
But by using 4G internet of things software, Vodafone is planning to leverage data from sim cards embedded in drones to build up a picture of precisely where they are.
Analysis from the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research project indicates that by 2050 drones will log more than 250m flying hours per year over densely populated areas of the EU. That is seven times the cumulative annual flying hours of conventional crewed aircraft
Vodafone said drones represent a "serious risk to pilots worldwide".
Lethal explosive payloads
"Drones are also used for criminal purposes such as drug smuggling and delivering contraband to prisoners. Additionally, security and intelligence services are increasingly concerned that terrorists could use drones adapted to carry small but lethal explosive payloads to attack locations targeted using GPS," the mobile giant said.
Vodafone Group chief technology officer Johan Wibergh, said: “This groundbreaking innovation by Vodafone will help to ensure the skies stay safe as drones become ubiquitous, everywhere.”
Deputy director general of the European Commission Matthew Baldwin said: “The commission supports all trials aimed at realising our U-space vision for safe commercial drone operations in the EU – there is a growing network of demonstrations and projects across the EU. We look forward to hearing the results of Vodafone’s work.”