The Cell Tower as Drone Charging Station: Who knew?

By Ernest Worthman

Executive Editor
AGL Small Cell Magazing

Amazon has just come up with a scheme where it plans to use cell towers to charge its delivery drones. Cell towers aren’t the only structures that Amazon is looking at, however. They are also considering things such as church steeples, power poles, and buildings, among others. There can also be stand-alone structures in areas where no high-points exist.

The scheme is interesting. If this works the way Amazon envisions it, their drones could be a system all to itself. This would allow Amazon to deliver nationwide, if the loftiest of plans come to fruition. The drones would not only use these refuel/recharge stations to top off the tank but also as communications points as well, such as homing beacons and automated routing and delivery instructions.

However, to make this work will require the blessing of the both the FAA and FCC. Drone package delivery isn’t sanctioned by the FAA and RF-emissions for such drone use isn’t either.

One angle that hasn’t been talked about is how this will play into 5G and the IoX. These drones come under the 500 foot ceiling umbrella. And, many of these refuel/recharge point may be a whole lot lower. With two-way communications on board, how is that going to interface with things like small cells and other 5G/IoX communications. On top of that, Walmart is looking at a similar scheme for delivery, even using the Amazon’s refuel/recharge stations. And I am sure these two are not the only entities thinking about this in one fashion or another.

Many of the 5G and IoX devices are going to be low-power and many will be at altitude where these (and other drones) will be operating. Right now the worry is more about the drones being a physical problem than an RF problem. But in the long run, that should be something the industry should be talking about.