AT&T wants to make COWs fly.
The carrier this week launched the trial phase of its national drone program in an effort to determine how the unmanned aerial vehicles can further benefit customers.
AT&T said it already uses drones to conduct aerial inspections of its cell towers, improving speed and allowing safe access to points a human could not reach. But the carrier is now looking to use drones to improve coverage.
In a blog posted earlier this week, AT&T Technology Operations Chief Strategy Officer and Group President John Donovan said the carrier is exploring the possibility of using flying mobile cells – known as Cell on Wings (COWs) – to provide LTE coverage at large events or in disaster situations. The aerial capability might allow the COWs to reach and provide coverage in areas vehicles can’t reach, Donovan said.
Donovan said AT&T is also looking at how drones can enhance its network to benefit Internet of Things (IoT) applications. According to Donovan, in-flight drones might be able to use the carrier’s network to send large amounts of data in real-time, which would benefit use cases including insurance, farming, facility and asset inspections and delivery service companies.
AT&T’s drone program is being led by Art Pregler, who Donovan said has “decades” of military, flight control and tech experience. AT&T’s IoT team is being led by Chris Penrose, Donovan said.
AT&T plans to demonstrate its drone tower inspection capabilities at its SHAPE conference, which is being held today and tomorrow in San Francisco.
Filed Under: Infrastructure, IoT • IIoT • internet of things • Industry 4.0