It’s not that kind of “cow.”
And it wasn’t a bird, plane or even Superman hovering over the skies of Ball Ground, GA – this week.
Rather, it was AT&T set up for the day at a small airstrip testing a new flying COW!
COWs, or in this case, Cell on Wings will provide LTE coverage at large events or in disaster situations to mobile customers. The thought here is aerial capability might allow the COWs to reach and provide coverage in areas vehicles or normal setups can’t reach.
This is not your traditional brown-spotted barnyard variety … but rather a 45 pound drone designed to quickly and more efficiently deliver mobile phone and Internet coverage in areas impacted by a disaster.
Georgia, as we all know, is certainly not immune from severe weather impacts – including tornadoes, tropical storms, hurricanes, floods, and even ice storms – all of which can temporarily knock out mobile Internet and phone connectivity.
Currently, in the event of a natural disaster where cell sites are damaged or knocked offline, AT&T will deploy mobile cell sites on trucks to provide coverage to customers affected.
But now they’re going a step further …
This is essentially attached a cell tower to a drone to provide coverage in the event of a natural disaster. This week, the company became the first wireless company to test this revolutionary technology.
By creating a cell tower on a drone, activation of a backup cell signal will be much faster, have closer access to the affected areas and more flexible deployment. The flying COW carries texts, calls, and data over satellite. That means it can operate in extremely remote areas and does not depend on available wired or wireless infrastructure.
In addition, the drone can fly at altitudes over 300 feet, about 500% higher than a traditional Cell on Wheels (COW) or Cell on Light Truck (COLT) mast. One can provide coverage to an area up to 40 square miles—about the size of a 100 football fields. Instead of a cell on wheels …it’s call this a Cell on WINGS.
The flight test took place in a “dead zone” over Ball Ground, so AT&T set up a COLT truck onsite to provide coverage before the drone was deployed.
How it worked:
Once the drone was in place, the truck’s satellite was switched off and everyone lost signal. Then the drone was activated and everyone immediately regained coverage … demonstrating the method in which lost cell service is immediately restored from the flying COW above.
The flying COW will go through further testing and approvals and could be in use by AT&T by the end of the year. This is the evolution in bringing strong wireless connectivity to those who need it most.