Natural disasters that have occurred in the past few months have encouraged many wireless companies to turn to a new technology—drones—to help restore devastated areas.
Drones are capable of surveying damage, capturing photographs, and of showing companies where it is safe to send people in, to make repairs.
AT&T sent out more than 40 drones in order to check for damage and make the necessary repairs on cell towers that were affected by Hurricane Harvey, CNN reported. Other carriers, like Verizon, have done the same. Drones in general provide a much more time efficient and safe way for wireless carriers to assess what repairs need to be made to their towers, according to a recent RCR Wireless article.
A hot topic in the wireless industry is public safety, and drones can provide immensely valuable information to companies, to the state affected, and to the families affected. FirstNet and AT&T’s public safety communications network is a work-in-progress, but utilizing drone technology is an option the partners have to ensure that public safety officials do not lose any connection in a time of crisis.
Verizon, also working on their own public safety network, has conducted tests to see if drones can broadcast an LTE network from the air if a natural disaster was to occur. According to a Verizon press release from April, this concept of a “flying cell site” was tested using a long endurance drone steered by American Aerospace Technologies, Inc.
According to an AT&T innovation blog from 2016, these aerial devices are also capable of temporarily providing enhanced LTE wireless coverage if need be, like at a crowded concert.
NPR reported that “this is the first time drones have been used in the U.S. in the management of a major disaster.” There is no precedent when it comes to drone use, and initially there were no guidelines for using them. These aerial devices can potentially clog the air space if too many are present at once. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration only allowed aircrafts for emergency response operations, and fines would be issued to anyone that interfered with these operations.
The telecom industry is not the only one utilizing drones after a natural disaster. NASA uses drones to assist with rescue missions and to hopefully locate people in need of help. Insurance companies are also utilizing drones to assess hurricane damage, reported CNN.
Connected Real Estate Weekly will keep you informed about the latest developments in drone technology and how it will impact the wireless industry.