AT&T Tests Drones To Bolster Cell Reception

Print Email

According to website BGR.com, AT&T (NYSE: T) may use flying drones to improve cell reception. AT&T calls the devices “flying COWs” of “cells on wings” The program may help the carrier improve the poor reception, which disappoints customers in some parts of the country.

BGR reports the plan may not benefit those with patchy service, because it has been hatched for other reasons:

After months of work, the company performed its initial test flight outside Atlanta today. The massive drone started up, took off and hovered for a bit, and then landed. It might not look all that impressive at first, but what the drone is capable of is actually pretty awesome. According to AT&T, a single one of the flying cell towers can provide coverage for 40 square miles, and since it’s tethered to a vehicle-based ground station it is continuously powered and never needs to land to be recharged.

However, before you go dreaming of a world where these fancy drones fill in all the patchy coverage anomalies in your neighborhood you should know that these powerful cell boosters are likely to be deployed in only the most crucial cases of network downtime. AT&T plans on using them to restore communications in areas affected by natural disasters and to provide extra coverage at popular venues like concerts and sporting events, where the sheer number of people can cause headaches.

Perhaps, eventually, the drones will be used to fill in persistent dead spots. A review of the AT&T 4G LTE coverage map for the U.S. shows there are plenty of those. This holds true particularly for customers in some parts of Nevada, New Mexico, and Montana. However, it might not be economic for AT&T to launch drones in such sparsely populated areas. So much for the use of drones to solve that problem