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Sendai City improves tsunami preparedness with connected drones

Sendai City improves tsunami preparedness with connected drones

Private LTE network provides critical connectivity for monitoring and evacuation operations

Nokia and Sendai City have conducted the world’s first test of a private wireless-connected drone solution for tsunami preparedness and response. The test confirmed that using a private 4.9G/LTE network to control and communicate with drones can help first responders alert the public and manage evacuations more effectively during a natural disaster.


Sendai City was devastated by the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Since then, the city has established itself as an international leader in disaster risk reduction and reconstruction. As part of a smart city initiative, Sendai wanted to develop an emergency response system that could improve its ability to monitor tsunamis, broadcast alerts and evacuate affected areas.

To build a more effective tsunami response system, the city needed a solution that could:

  • Provide actionable real-time information about the impact of an earthquake
  • Sound alarms and deliver instructions to evacuees
  • Monitor evacuation processes and provide updates to first responders and the public
  • Operate reliably even if the public communications system fails across the whole city


We’re helping Sendai improve its tsunami response with a service that uses wireless broadband and drone technologies to monitor the situation in real time and provide alerts and guidance to first responders and evacuees.

The solution is built on our Drone Networks application and Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) platform.

Automated drones

Workers steer a fleet of connected camera- and loudspeaker-equipped drones from a command and control center.

Industrial-grade private wireless

A rapidly deployable private LTE/4.9G network extends seamless and secure connectivity across affected areas.

Real-time streaming

Enhanced coverage and performance ensure reliable delivery of media streams between drones and the command and control center.

Fast data processing and analysis

Edge cloud computing and analytics applications rapidly process data from cameras and sensors.

First test

In November 2019, we worked with Sendai City to conduct the first test of the service in a simulated disaster scenario. The test included a private LTE network based on our plug-and-play DAC platform and a set of drones mounted with speakers and HD and thermal cameras.

During the simulation, testers monitored the tsunami arrival zone using video streams from the drone cameras. They then used the drone speakers to sound alerts and provide evacuation instructions to people in the affected areas. The testers also tracked the movements of evacuees, using the thermal cameras to find people in the dark or in places where visibility was obscured.


Results and benefits

The first test of the service proved that the combination of private wireless networks and drone technologies could enable Sendai City’s first responders to react more swiftly to natural disasters and manage evacuation processes without putting themselves in danger. The city will use the service to address several key concerns relating to disaster preparedness.

Accelerate disaster response

Respond to tsunamis and other natural disasters faster and limit their impact on citizens.

Keep first responders connected

Provide reliable broadband communications for first responders in any situation, even the most critical ones.

Keep citizens informed

Communicate effectively with affected citizens in real time.

Improve situational awareness

Detect secondary hazards such as fires or traffic accidents.

“The use of these drones seems to be very effective in ensuring the safety and security of Sendai and its surrounding areas. The demonstration by Nokia showed that we should be able to respond faster and provide better information to the people in the most affected areas during a potential disaster. We are very hopeful that Nokia Drone Networks will help us to reduce risk for our citizens.”
Sendai City logo
Kazuko Kohri
Mayor, Sendai City

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