AT&T Deploys Drone to Provide LTE Connectivity for Hurricane Hit Puerto Rican Customers

AT&T has now, for the first time ever, developed a helicopter Flying COW (Cell on Wings) for its customers in Puerto Rico. As the company works to permanently restore its storm affected network in the country, this experimental technology is providing data, voice, and text services to customers. This is the first time an LTE cell site on a drone has been successfully deployed to connect residents after a disaster.

The Flying COW is providing wireless connectivity to customers in an up to 40-square mile-area. It flies 200 feet above the ground and can extend coverage farther than other temporary cell sites making it ideal for providing coverage in remote areas. LTE-connected drones hold a lot of potential for FirstNet-subscribers. Exploring the capabilities of this technology in wake of Hurricane Maria’s devastation will help temporarily restore connectivity and assess how first responders can use the drone in the future.

An unprecedented event such as Hurricane Maria has made companies look to innovative solutions to connect customers, first responders, and disaster recovery teams. From AT&T’s involvement with Vanu, to its unique use of portable cell sites at the base of clusters of cell towers, testing the Flying COW is just one way AT&T is using technology in new ways.

Currently deployed in the San Juan area, AT&T plans to relocate the Flying COW in the coming days to support additional areas, including the military hospital at Manati Coliseum. Teams are working around the clock to restore the network and deploy additional assets in impacted areas in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Currently, nearly 70% of the population in Puerto Rico and 95% of the population in the U.S. Virgin Islands is connected again.