Vissel Kobe fans come to Noevir Stadium for world-class soccer, an unbeatable atmosphere, and great entertainment. It might soon be time to add ‘drone flying’ to that list.
Last month, Rakuten’s J.League soccer team Vissel Kobe teamed up with Rakuten Mobile and Kobe City for a new airborne tourism experience. From the stands of Vissel’s home ground Noevir Stadium, fans piloted drones in the skies over the Port of Kobe, some 4km away, through the power of Rakuten Mobile’s 5G network.
A bird’s eye view of Kobe… from the stadium
Equipped with a controller and a screen displaying a live feed from the drone, the amateur pilots had free reign over the skies of the Port of Kobe, taking in familiar sights from new, unfamiliar perspectives.
The exciting experience incorporated a number of gamified elements, making use of AR (augmented reality) to guide pilots towards various airborne destinations.
Flying towards any of the Port of Kobe’s iconic landmarks would bring up interesting facts and visuals, while other AR markers formed ‘item boxes’ to which pilots could navigate to receive coupons for local shops and even official Vissel Kobe merchandise.
The drone remote control solution and the AR visuals were built by Red Dot Drone Japan, one of the participants of the Rakuten Mobile Partner Program, while drone operations were handled by a team from Rakuten’s Unmanned Solutions Business.
Project leader Yuki Niwa of Rakuten’s 5G Business Solutions Planning Department expressed optimism that the trial would lead to new applications of the airborne tech.
“This drone trial is not just about aerial photography,” he highlighted. “By also overlaying tourism guides onto the video feed and incorporating gamified AR contents, we were able to showcase a new way to leverage drones.”
Low latency, high bandwidth
The futuristic flying experience was made possible by Rakuten Mobile’s cutting-edge 5G
network. The low latency nature of 5G allowed the new pilots to control the drones essentially in
real time from 4km away, while the high bandwidth connection enabled the transmission of high-
volume video, giving the virtual pilots a detailed perspective from high above the port.
“When you need to fly several drones simultaneously and send back high-resolution video, you
can really see the benefits of high bandwidth 5G,” Niwa remarked. “And when you’re sending
piloting data in real time, low latency is also really important.”
Event participants were also able to enjoy another exciting trial which leveraged the high bandwidth of Rakuten Mobile’s 5G network to give spectators, 360-degree VR views of various
areas of the stadium – including some normally only permitted for players and staff.
Noevir Stadium: a hub of 5G tech
It’s not the first time Noevir Stadium has been the site of innovative 5G trials. In 2021, Rakuten Mobile held trials of an AR spectating experience using 5G, allowing spectators to use their smartphones to conjure match stats and player information before their eyes.
The impressive technology integrated a ‘visual positioning system,’ capable of calculating a
user’s exact position from various seats throughout the stadium in order to display the precise
Rakuten Mobile has also teamed up with Kobe University and Denso Ten to utilize 5G to help solve the challenge of managing large crowds in venues such as Noevir Stadium. In 2021, they trialed a system that allowed visitors to check foot traffic in and around the stadium and avoid congestion.
Niwa believes that Rakuten’s latest 5G drone undertaking is also just the first step in what could become a regular experience in the future – in Kobe and beyond.
“We have a strong affinity with Kobe, being the hometown of Vissel. This trial came about as the result of our partnership with Kobe City, and discussions on how we could boost tourist activity,” Niwa explained. “While this trial took place in Kobe, in the future, I can see something similar working for specific use cases elsewhere in Japan and in tourist destinations around the world.”