Telecommunications giant AT&T has been using drones to provide connectivity to areas affected by natural disasters. Most recently this occurred late last year in Puerto Rico, where AT&T’s Flying COWs (Cell on Wings) were deployed to reconnect residents after the hurricane, providing wireless connectivity to customers in area of up to 40-square miles.
A recent release from AT&T shows how the initial COW has moved on. What was before a miniature helicopter has now become an octocopter capable of operating in even the harshest conditions.
The new Flying COW can, according to AT&T, “see through obstacles, fly through rain, operate in extreme temperatures and communicate in areas without infrastructure.”
The drone took its first flight last week in Bedminster, New Jersey. AT&T’s Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) Team is calling it “The Extreme-Weather Drone.” Catchy.
Rugged connectivity and first responder support
Compared to the original, AT&T say this new Flying COW is a “weather-hardened version with beefed up hardware, rugged features and enhanced capabilities”. The result is a drone that’s equipped for a more robust role in extreme environments, one that can handle the conditions it’s deployed to mitigate.
AT&T says the Extreme Weather Drone can withstand a tropical storm with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 50 mph. It is also able to fly in snow and extreme temperatures, ranging from below freezing to ‘sweltering’. It’s armed with a thermal imaging payload, so the drone can see through smoke, tree cover, and other obstacles.
This is interesting. It means that AT&T’s drone is an effort to be a one-drone-fits-all type solution for first responders. On the one hand it can provide connectivity for teams on the ground and cell coverage for emergency teams. But on the other it can play a more active role, supporting search and rescue teams using thermal imaging.
Between its durability and imaging capabilities, the uses of our all-weather drone are endless for fire, police and search and rescue. And we’re thrilled to provide this life-saving technology for them.” – AT&T
“As hurricane season quickly approaches, we monitor the high winds, high waters and other catastrophic events,” wrote AT&T’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Director, Art Pregler.
“This year we’ll be especially well prepared with this innovative new tool in our arsenal. We’ll have our new all-weather Flying COW ready to deploy when and where it’s needed. Not just to restore our critical connections, but also to help first responders on their mission to save lives and restore communities.”