AT&T to Launch Flying Cows aka LTE Drones

Carrier considers airborne cell sites
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Flying COW update, at Wireless Estimator—“Industry’s first successful flying COW live test is made by AT&T, Feb. 22, 2017.“

DALLAS—Big Bell AT&T is dreaming of fortifying its wireless network with flying cows. Flying “COWS,” that is, or “Cells on Wings,” essentially, LTE cell sites carried on drones. The carrier announced that it launched a program this week to explore what it could do with unmanned aircraft systems.

Its national drone program will be led by Art Pregler, also AT&T’s director of National Mobility Systems and previously director of its National Cell Site Programs for more than 15 years. Pregler also logged several years in various positions with the U.S. Air Force. AT&T’s John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of technology and operations, announced the drone initiative in a blog post.

“We’re already using drones to perform aerial inspections of our cell towers, and this week at our SHAPE Conference in San Francisco, we'll demonstrate that capability live,” he wrote.

“Connecting drones to our nationwide LTE network lets us capture data and feed it directly to our systems. In turn, this can allow us to make changes to our network in real time.”

The so-called “Flying COWS” also could be employed at “large events or even rapid disaster response,” he said.

Further, AT&T's IoT team is working on “how in-flight drones can use our LTE network to send large amounts of data in real-time. This capability may benefit areas such as insurance, farming, facility and asset inspections, and even delivery service companies.”