Telecom giant AT&T has developed drones capable of transmitting the 5G signal to an area with patchy connectivity.
In true dad-joke style, the drone has been named 5G Flying COW (acronym for Cell on Wings). In testing, it was able to provide an area of around 10 square miles with a strong 5G signal, according to AT&T.
“We had an intermittent and weak LTE signal at the flight location prior to launching the 5G Flying COW,” said Ethan Hunt, senior program manager for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at AT&T. “We flew the drone up to about 300 feet, turned on the signal, and it started transmitting strong 5G coverage to about 10 square miles.”
Fly for hours
Although there may be many use cases for drone-based mobile hotspots (opens in a new tab)AT&T’s first idea is to have them help first responders, mountain rescue services, etc.
The benefits for teams working in harsh conditions are obvious, providing a reliable connection with which to communicate with each other and with the people they are trying to help.
The usual problem with drones is their endurance. Today’s flying machines, even the most advanced, can only stay in the air for a few hours, while consumer products rarely do so for more than 40 minutes. Currently, AT&T’s devices are connected, but this is also being worked on for future iterations.
“We are currently working on many exciting technical challenges to expand the capabilities of our Flying COWs,” said Art Pregler, program manager for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at AT&T.
“We strive to fly autonomously untethered for months without landing, using solar power to deliver secure, reliable, and fast 5G connectivity to large numbers of users over large geographic areas. help bring high-speed connectivity to rural and other underserved communities in the United States and beyond.
Elon Musk’s Starlink is working to bring internet connectivity to the world via satellite, but until that happens, flying drones beaming super-fast internet is a welcome next step.