Now that the Federal Aviation Administration has legalized commercial drone use, AT&T is looking at better ways for a stronger signal at large venues that are notorious for bad cell service.
ARS Technica reported that AT&T is already using drones to inspect its towers and has been testing flying COWs (Cells on Wings) for about a year for large events such as ball games or concerts. According to AT&T, the flying COWs also “capture data from network sites and feed the data to AT&T systems, helping the carrier make changes to its network in real time.”
Additionally, MarketWatch reported that AT&T is working with Intel to test LTE-connected drones to provide better wireless service at large venues. In this case, the COWs would be tethered to the ground so they wouldn’t fly away. Currently testing is part of a trial project, AT&T’s “national drone program.” Program Director Art Pregler told MarketWatch the COWs wouldn’t have to fly too high, perhaps just under the roofline of stadiums or buildings. The testing team includes people with military, flight control and tech experience.
Currently, according to MarketWatch, AT&T uses portable mobile cell sites on the ground via trucks with mounted antennas for temporary coverage at large events. AT&T has said that it may give the flying COWs a trial run at this week’s Shape Tech Expo in San Francisco.