Communication and coordination are vital to the handling of any major disaster. In the case of floods and hurricanes, telecoms infrastructure is often the first thing to go under. Without it, first responders can find it difficult to communicate effectively – with each other and with people that need help. That’s where Verizon’s drone-enabled network infrastructure can come to the rescue.
Along with American Aerospace Technologies, Verizon has recently been trialling what it believes is the next step in cutting-edge communications: the use of drones to reconnect networks as part of a disaster response.
The technology was recently tested during an emergency management exercise in Cape May County, N.J.
During the exercise, emergency personnel were sent to Belleplain State Forest – an area supposed to simulate a “coverage-denied environment”.
At the nearby Woodbine Municipal Airport, the AATI aircraft with Verizon’s Airborne LTE network technology was launched and flown above the forest. Once the “flying cell site” arrived, first responders were able to connect to the Verizon network through the fixed-wing drone, and communicate back to the County OEM and New Jersey State Police command centers.
They were even able to use social media applications on the smartphones.
The scenario was designed to imitate the likely response to a category II hurricane. With the National Hurricane Center already issuing warnings for two tropical storm systems this week, Verizon believes its technology has the potential to save the lives those in the affected areas.
“This exercise proved that this ‘flying cell site technology’ works in a real-world environment using smartphones off the shelf – in fact, we registered connections on Verizon customer devices beyond the phones we provided to first responders,” said Christopher Desmond, Principal Engineer at Verizon.
“Data gathered from today’s successful flight will be used as we continue to optimize the ‘pocket of coverage area’ we can provide from an aircraft for disaster use in the future.”