Verizon Testing Drones for In-Air LTE Networks During Emergencies
The experiments are testing how drones could be used to fly LTE cells into the skies to rebuild cellular networks when disaster strikes.After a severe weather emergency, airborne drones carrying LTE network equipment could be used in the future to help restore cellular phone services for first responders and emergency workers in hard-hit communities under a program being tested by Verizon Wireless. Verizon's Airborne LTE Operations (ALO) initiative, which has been undergoing tests for two years, conducted several controlled trials in New Jersey from Oct. 5-6 using large 300-pound drones with 17-foot wingspans to carry LTE cellular equipment into the skies, the company announced on Oct. 6. The tests were aimed at learning about how such unmanned drones could be used to create an in-flight cellular network to replace traditional network gear that might be damaged in storms. The New Jersey ALO tests were conducted with Verizon partner American Aerospace Technologies Inc. (AATI), which operated the large drones and collected test data for future analysis, according to Verizon. Howard Waterman, a Verizon spokesman, told eWEEK that the drones were packed with LTE network gear and flown to see how large a coverage area could be established. In addition, the experiments also tested how such systems could be used to create all-new airborne networks if existing ground-based systems were temporarily knocked out by severe weather or natural disasters, and how the drones could also boost ground-based systems that remained in service.
"The tests were all in the spirit of helping out as part of an emergency response," said Waterman. The experiments were Verizon's first tests of the technology so far in a mock emergency setting, he added.