The use of aerial drones has exploded in recent years thanks to lower pricing (making them devices more affordable for the general public), ease of use (thanks to more automation for flight controls), and the ability to pop off magnificent aerial footage (which has done wonders in the film industry). Predictably, drones have also found use in surveying operations, and even search and rescue missions.
AT&T, however, has another use in mind for drones — expanding service coverage following a natural disaster. AT&T calls these devices Flying COWs or “Cell on Wings”. The COWs could be deployed, for example, after a flood or a tornado has ransacked a populated area. As the company explains, it might not be possible for a wheeled vehicle to deliver a semi-permanent mobile cell tower to aid in delivering providing coverage, so COWs that can fly in and hover in place over a designated area would be ideal.
“We're moving toward the future by pushing the envelope on what’s technologically possible for drones,” said AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Donovan.
But COWs wouldn’t just be helpful in the event of a disaster; they could also be deployed during more joyous occasions such as at a football game or a concert. Having hundreds or thousands of people clustered in a single area can overload cell towers, but once again, COWs could help save the day by serving as a backup means for coverage.
While this technology definitely promising, AT&T admits that such usage scenarios are still years down the road.
When it comes to actual drone use today, AT&T is using drones to thoroughly inspect its cell towers. According to the company, drones can “access parts of a tower that a human simply could not” which will allow it to “improve our customers’ experience by enhancing our cell sites faster than ever before.”