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Drones Taking AT&T’s Network to New Heights


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July 13, 2016Imagine 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, AT&T expects many different drone uses in the future. That’s why for the past year the company has been exploring and testing different ways drones can benefit its customers.

This week, AT&T reached another milestone by launching the trial phase of its national drone program. The AT&T national drone program is driving innovation, and focuses on how AT&T and our customers can benefit from drone-based solutions. AT&T is already using drones to perform aerial inspections of our cell towers, and this week at the company’s SHAPE Conference in San Francisco, it will demonstrate that capability live.

Connecting drones to AT&T’s nationwide LTE network lets the company capture data and feed it directly to its systems.  In turn, this can allow AT&T to make changes to its network in real time.  By using drones to inspect a cell site, AT&T is able to conduct inspections more quickly and safely – and even access parts of a tower that a human simply could not.  The company anticipates this will allow us to improve its customers’ experience by enhancing cell sites faster than ever before.

AT&T expects its 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 AT&T is using drones to enhance its network, the company’s IoT team is developing solutions for its customers.  AT&T is researching how in-flight drones can use the company’s 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.

AT&T is moving toward the future by pushing the envelope on what’s technologically possible for drones.  Look for more news from AT&T at SHAPE, including a first-hand look at how drones are taking our network to new heights.

More information about the AT&T national drone program is available at: http://about.att.com/innovationblog/drones_new_heights

 

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