As the new hurricane season began last Friday, AT&T unveiled its new Extreme Weather Drone, an all-weather Flying Cell on Wings (COW). The Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) took its first test flight last week, taking on live LTE test traffic, according to AT&T UAS Program Director Art Pregler.
Pregler outlines the upgrades to its newest member of the carrier’s drone fleet in a blog post. The “spider”-looking UAS features:
Beefed up hardware, rugged features and enhanced connectivity capabilities such as small cells and easily transportable antennas, enabling quick deployment in extreme environments
Can withstand a tropical storm with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 50 mph
Flies in snow and extreme temperatures ranging from below freezing to sweltering heat
The drone will also play a key role in AT&T’s FirstNet program. “Think about first responders operating in remote locations, battling a rapidly moving wildfire that has charred the infrastructure they need to communicate,” writes Pregler. Or search and rescue crews off the beaten path where a network doesn’t exist. The all-weather flying COW can hover above harsh conditions and remote terrain to keep them connected when other drone and deployable options aren’t viable, according to the expert.
The UAS has thermal imaging capabilities, so it can “see” through certain types of roofs to guide firefighters around burning trusses, helping them to avoid stepping in areas that may be ready to collapse,” according to Pregler. “This capability can also help search and rescue teams locate people trapped between collapsed buildings” after an earthquake or lost hikers hidden from view under dense tree cover.