AT&T Deploys New Helicopter Flying Cell on Wings in Disaster Exercise

AT&T has successfully completed its first Network Disaster Recovery exercise of the year in Houston. The carrier deployed its new Helicopter Flying Cell on Wings, employing a 7.5-foot diameter rotor and two cellular antennas.

“In the future, our NDR team hopes that the Helicopter Flying COW will go into areas where a traditional Cell on Wheels can’t go: like areas with hurricane damage or flooding,” writes AT&T – FirstNet SVP Chris Sambar in a blog. The carrier also deployed six technology recovery trailers, a satellite Cell on Light Truck, mobile command center and an emergency communications vehicle.

As part of its FirstNet partnership, AT&T plans to make more network technologies available to first responders such as adding about 72 satellite COLTs to its fleet. “These will be dedicated to first responders and their specific needs during sustained situations where coverage may need to be strengthened. Think search-and-rescue operations following a storm,” says Sambar.   

It’s also prioritizing public safety and preemption on the network, making these Network Disaster Recovery services available across all AT&T LTE bands. First responders will have access to the carrier’s fleet of some 700 NDR assets — including COWs, COLTs, generators and trailers — in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis.

The Houston Fire Department joined the recent exercise for a hazardous materials training drill. They assessed damage and checked the environmental conditions in the generator room and cable vault of a mock “contaminated” AT&T Central Office. “Exercises help us learn and adapt our strategies for providing connectivity when disasters strike,” added Sambar. That’s why the company conducted the test as hurricane season is approaching here.

May 17, 2017      


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