Imagine you’re at a concert watching your favorite band, and out of the corner of your eye you notice a tethered drone hovering nearby.

But this drone isn’t taking photos or videos of the band.  It’s temporarily providing enhanced LTE wireless coverage at the packed venue so you, along with thousands of others in attendance, can simultaneously send photos and videos to share the moment.

While this isn’t a reality yet, we expect many different drone uses in the future. That’s why for the past year we’ve been exploring and testing different ways drones can benefit our customers.

This week, we reached another milestone by launching the trial phase of our national drone program.

Led by Art Pregler, our national drone program is driving innovation, and focuses on how AT&T and our customers can benefit from drone-based solutions.

Art’s team brings decades of military, flight control and tech experience to the job.  This has allowed the team to hit the air flying, so to speak.  We’re already using drones to perform aerial inspections of our cell towers, and this week at our SHAPE Conference in San Francisco, we’ll demonstrate that capability live.

Pregler notes that drones, robots and artificial intelligence are all evovling “We can see all of this coming together in a very interesting man-machine relationship.”

Connecting drones to our nationwide LTE network lets us capture data and feed it directly to our systems.  In turn, this can allow us to make changes to our network in real time.

We expect our experiences will lay the foundation for new, exciting
drone applications.

Possible uses include Flying COWs (Cell on Wings) providing LTE coverage at large events or even rapid disaster response.  A Flying COW may even be able to provide coverage when a vehicle is unable to drive to a designated area.

In addition to how we’re using drones to enhance our network, we’re researching how in-flight drones can use our LTE network to send large amounts of data in real-time. This capability may benefit areas such as insurance, farming, facility and asset inspections, and even delivery service companies.

John Donovan,
Chief Strategy Officer and Group President
AT&T Technology and Operations

John Donovan’s post outlines a very robust drone strategy utilizing both tethered and free-flying drones. It is fascinating that the demand for bandwidth to facilitate sharing experiences has gotten to the point that it is the new dial tone. We expect to be able to connect just as we once expected to pick up a phone and dial.
Take a look at the video. Like the Airbus inspection story, AT&T brings together a local drone crew with centralized expert resources interacting in real-time, in this case over the LTE network.
You’ve probably read about Google’s Project Loon which is already testing the use of high altitude balloons to provide Internet connectivity. The Flying Cow is a much more tactical strategy that can be implemented now and avoids any number of complications associated with crossing various borders.
Finally it is interesting to note the experience base that AT&T tapped to build out their initiative.



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