Friday 10 February 2023

Evolution of AT&T’s Flying COW (Cell on Wings)

I first got introduced to COWs (Cell on Wheels) when AT&T talked about them back in 2014. Since then I have written about AT&T's Flying COWs (Cell on Wings as opposed to Wheels) and also the Flying COW - Helicopter. All of the Flying COWs were transmitting 4G/LTE.

In an announcement last June, AT&T announced that their Flying COW was able to transmit 5G. Surprisingly they haven't shared any videos publicly, unlike the 4G ones. Their announcement said:

The AT&T drone team picked this remote location for the ground-breaking launch of its Flying COW® (Cell on Wings), because of that: it’s remote. No trees. No houses. No humans. Only wide-open spaces and the occasional four-legged cow.

“We had intermittent, weak LTE signal at the flight location before we launched the 5G Flying COW®,” said Ethan Hunt, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Principal Program Manager, AT&T. “We flew the drone up to about 300 feet, turned on the signal and it began transmitting strong 5G coverage to approximately 10 square miles.”

That means, customers with a capable 5G phone in the area could have gone from no service to super-fast wireless connections in seconds. In the future, this could help first responders in a search and rescue mission.

“Drones may use 5G for command and control or to stream video, but the AT&T 5G Flying COW® is the only drone that provides a 5G network,” Ethan said.

A COW serves as a cell site on a drone, and AT&T has been using this technology to beam LTE coverage to customers during big events and disasters for years. Other companies may use 5G signals to communicate with drones, but the 5G Flying COW® could be a game changer.

“Our focus within the drone world is connectivity. All of our drone solutions have that focus,” said Art Pregler, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Director, AT&T. “5G brings a lot of new capability to the table. We can connect a lot larger number of devices with 5G. When we put that up, we can share with a larger population.”

That, in turn, can lead to a more seamless experience, better network performance and an overall better experience.

 “It’s enabling a lot more solutions, including human-to-machine interface that are now capable that wasn’t previously possible,” said Art.

Complete story here.

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