AT&T is sending LTE signals from drones

AT&T has used drones to inspect cell sites, measure network strength in sports stadiums, and now the technology team built a Flying COW.  A Flying COW – which stands for Cell on Wings – is a cell site on a drone.

It is designed to beam LTE coverage from the sky to customers on the ground during disasters or big events.

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Last week, the drone team completed a successful live test flight of the Flying COW transmitting and receiving high speed data above a field outside Atlanta.

The drone carries a small cell and antennas. It’s connected to the ground by a thin tether. The tether between the drone and the ground provides a highly secure data connection via fiber and supplies power to the Flying COW, which allows for unlimited flight time.

The Flying COW then uses satellite to transport texts, calls, and data. The Flying COW can operate in extremely remote areas and where wired or wireless infrastructure is not immediately available. Like any drone that we deploy, pilots will monitor and operate the device during use.

Once airborne, the Flying COW provides LTE coverage from the sky to a designated area on the ground.

Compared to a traditional COW, in certain circumstances, a Flying COW can be easier to deploy due to its small size. We expect it to provide coverage to a larger footprint because it can potentially fly at altitudes over 300 feet— about 500% higher than a traditional COW mast.

Once operational, the Flying COW could eventually provide coverage to an area up to 40 square miles—about the size of a 100 football fields. We may also deploy multiple Flying COWs to expand the coverage footprint.

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