This post originally appeared on http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/07/att-drones-are-inspecting-towers-may-someday-boost-data-rates/.
[Editor’s Note: AT&T is using drones to safely and quickly inspect towers, accessing parts of the tower that humans are unable to access.]
AT&T has begun using drones to inspect its cell towers and wants to eventually use the little flying machines to deliver more mobile data at large events.
Aerial inspections can be performed “more quickly and safely—and [drones can] even access parts of a tower that a human simply could not,” AT&T’s announcement yesterday said. Drones capture data from network sites and feed the data to AT&T systems, helping the carrier make changes to its network “in real time,” AT&T said.
AT&T—which is also working with Intel to test LTE-connected drones—has grander plans for its drone program. If all goes well, AT&T drones could “temporarily provid[e] 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,” the company said.
This would be achieved with “Flying COWs” (Cells on “Wings” instead of the usual “Wheels”) that could provide LTE at large events or network connections needed for rapid disaster response. “A Flying COW may even be able to provide coverage when a vehicle is unable to drive to a designated area,” AT&T said.
AT&T said it has been testing drones for a year to determine how they might improve its network, having assembled a team with “decades of military, flight control, and tech experience.” While AT&T didn’t provide a timeline for deploying Flying COWs, the company plans to demonstrate its drone research this week at its Shape Tech Expo in San Francisco.
The wireless carrier isn’t the first company to explore using drones for delivering Internet access. Both Google and Facebook are testing such technology, which could bring Internet coverage to remote areas that lack network infrastructure.