As part of its four-year Project Darwin, a trial programme with the European Space Agency, network operator O2 has launched the first commercial laboratory for 5G and satellite communications in the UK.
The lab, called the Darwin SatCom Lab, is based in the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, and will explore next-gen connectivity for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), using both 5G and satellite communications.
“We’re delighted to announce that the Darwin SatCom Lab is now open for business at Harwell Campus, allowing companies to put theory into practice and test innovative ideas using our connected and autonomous vehicles,” said Derek McManus, COO at O2. “The Lab is further proof that O2 is at the forefront of connectivity and accelerating Britain’s recovery by helping British businesses to harness the power of 5G and satellite communications in order to benefit their customers. It’s the next step in getting autonomous vehicles on the road and making the UK’s transport network greener.”
Lowering CO2 emissions with 5G
At the new lab, companies will be able to test proof-of-concept projects using two Renault TWIZY electric cars, which O2 has converted into CAVs, fitted with LIDAR sensors so that they can be remotely controlled from the Lab.
One of the projects that’s already being tested at the Darwin SatCom Lab looking at the CO2 emissions of the vehicles using the LIDAR sensors. By using satellite imagery to monitor traffic routes and local biodiversity, the lab team is able to calculate the emissions savings of taking different routes, based on carbon capture from nearby trees.
“The UK’s space sector is applying pioneering technologies such as satellites and 5G to essential products and services that will help to transform our everyday lives,” explained Amanda Solloway MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation. “I am incredibly excited that O2’s first of its kind driverless car lab will enable our most innovative businesses to test these technologies and bring us another step closer to putting self-driving vehicles safely on our roads.”
The technology being used at the lab includes Nokia 5G equipment, and geosynchronous communications satellites (GEOs) provided by Spanish satellite operator, Hispasat.