AT&T has deployed its helicopter Flying COW (Cell on Wings) as it works to permanently restore its network in Puerto Rico. It is the first time an LTE cell site on a drone has been successfully deployed to connect residents after a disaster.
The experimental technology is providing data, voice, and text services to customers to customers in an up to 40-square mile-area. It flies 200 feet above the ground and can extend coverage farther than other temporary cell sites. Ideal for providing coverage in remote areas.
“LTE-connected drones hold a lot of potential for FirstNet-subscribers,” the company said. “Exploring the capabilities of this technology in wake of Hurricane Maria’s devastation will help temporarily restore connectivity and assess how first responders can use the drone in the future.
“An unprecedented event such as Hurricane Maria has required we look to innovative solutions to connect customers, first responders, and disaster recovery teams. From our involvement with Vanu, to our unique use of portable cell sites at the base of clusters of cell towers, testing the Flying COW is just one way we’re using technology in new ways,” AT&T added.
Currently deployed in the San Juan area, the carrier plans to relocate its Flying COW in the coming days to support additional areas, including the military hospital at Manati Coliseum.
Teams are working around the clock to restore the network and deploy additional assets in impacted areas in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Today, nearly 70 percent of the population in Puerto Rico and nearly 95 percent of the population in the U.S. Virgin Islands are connected again.