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 the 5G Flying COW (an acronym for Cell on Wings). In tests, 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 the launch of 5G Flying COW,” said Ethan Hunt, senior program manager for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at AT&T. "We flew the drone out to about 300 feet, turned on the signal, and it started broadcasting strong 5G coverage to about 10 square miles."
fly for hours
While there could be many use cases for drone-based mobile hotspots (opens in a new tab), AT&T's first idea is for them to help first responders, emergency services, mountain rescue, etc.
The benefits for teams working in challenging conditions are obvious as they provide a reliable connection to communicate with each other and with the people they are trying to help.
The usual problem with drones is their resistance. 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. AT&T devices are currently 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 bring secure, reliable and fast 5G connectivity to large numbers of users in large geographic areas. Help bring high-speed connectivity to rural and other underserved communities in the United States. United States and beyond.
Elon Musk's Starlink is working to bring internet connectivity to the world via satellites, but until that happens, flying drones that stream super-fast internet are a welcome next step.