AT&T Wants Drones to Provide LTE Wireless Coverage

18 July 2016

AT&T has been working on a variety of futuristic drone-based technologies through its national drone program. In a blog post, John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer and Group President, AT&T Technology and Operations revealed that the company wants to see drones providing enhanced LTE coverage in packed areas, such as concert venues.

The vision isn’t quite a reality yet, but according to Donovan, the company expects these types of drone uses to implemented in the future. Over the past year, “we’ve been exploring and testing different ways drones can benefit our customers,” said Donovan.

One recent drone achievement has been AT&T’s ability to perform aerial inspections of its cell towers. Last week, at the SHAPE Conference in San Francisco, the company demonstrated that capability live.

The company is also using drones to connect to its nationwide LTE network in order to capture data and feed it directly into the system, allowing for real-time network changes.

“By using drones to inspect a cell site, we’re able to conduct inspections more quickly and safely – and even access parts of a tower that a human simply could not. We anticipate this will allow us to improve our customers’ experience by enhancing our cell sites faster than ever before,” wrote Donovan.

Other potential uses for the technology include Flying COWs (Cell on Wings), which would provide LTE coverage at large events or for rapid disaster response purposes. A Flying COW could even be able to offer coverage when a vehicle is unable to drive to a designated area.

AT&T’s IoT team is also currently investigating how in-flight drones could be used to connect to its LTE network and allow customers to send large amounts of data in real-time, which could benefit insurance, farming and industrial companies.

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