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AT&T testing drones to inspect cell towers, boost 4G LTE capacity in crowded places

By Jos
Jul 15, 2016
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  1. Wireless carriers have come a long way providing LTE coverage in urban areas across the U.S., but there are times at large venue events when crowds put a great deal of strain on the cell network and everyone gets terrible service as a result. Currently, to handle those situations AT&T deploys portable mobile sites in trucks that have antenna towers mounted on them, but the company envisions a future in which drones will take their place.

    In a post over at AT&T’s Innovation Space blog, Chief Strategy Officer John Donovan detailed a handful of ways in which drones can be used to improve its services.

    Donovan says AT&T is already using drones to perform aerial inspections of cell towers, and will offer a live demonstration this week at our SHAPE Conference in San Francisco. This allows the company to conduct inspections at cell sites more quickly and safely.

    Going forward the company wants to connect drones -- or Flying COWs (Cell on Wings) as it is calling them -- to its nationwide LTE network to boost capacity at large events or being able to provide coverage as quickly as possible following a natural disaster.

    The company says it’s also looking at how in-flight drones could be used to send large amounts of data in real-time for business customers in industries such as farming, delivery services, insurance and even facility and asset inspections.

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  2. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 658   +174

    But drones can hardly stay flying for more than 30 mins at a time, how would it be practical to offer cell coverage?

    Good idea for inspections but maybe less so for offering cellphone signal boosting.
     
  3. GeforcerFX

    GeforcerFX TS Evangelist Posts: 494   +126

    That would depend on the drone type, there are more then just quad copters as drones. My friends basic electric foam built can handle 3 big lipo cells and on a calmer day can get an hour flight pretty easy, usually lands at that point from a neck cramp from his goggles but the cells usually have 30-40% usable capacity remaining. Worse days we can still get 45 min. If you go gas that can be 2-3 hours easy, and you could even go small blimp, like the army has in Afghanistan.
     
  4. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,662   +769

    And one can only wonder how long it will be before the tech's operating it decide to pull some kind of prank or loiter over a back yard with a gal sunbathing ..... hmmmmmm, wonder if they will be willing to share that tape?
     
  5. tonylukac

    tonylukac TS Evangelist Posts: 1,309   +56

    If you put the mac battery in it, it would last a lot longer. It almost actually creates energy. I don't know how you charge it for a half hour and it stays powered up unplugged for 8 hours. 25 watt power supply too.
     
  6. Joe Blow

    Joe Blow TS Rookie

    Great! Since using drones is a lot less hazardous to human life (or all life). Nothing living should be within a half a mile of these things.
     

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