Disaster recovery work demands facing challenging situations and environments, including at times extreme weather conditions. With the AT&T all-weather flying COW (cell on wings), first responders and field technicians have a tool to help speed recovery work in the toughest of environments.
This new technology has the potential to become one of the highlights of our drone fleet and took a big step forward with a successful first public flight in Bedminster, New Jersey, in May during a network disaster recovery capabilities demonstration. The all-weather flying COW also took flight in May in Redmond, Washington, when engineering students at the University of Washington used it to test Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed wireless data antennas they designed to connect on our drones. The antenna development and test flight was the capstone project for students, and also the first time the new all-weather flying COW took on live LTE test traffic.
Compared with our traditional flying COW, this weather-hardened version with beefed up hardware, rugged features and enhanced capabilities is equipped for a more robust role in extreme environments. Equipped with small cells and antennas and easily transported, deployed and moved quickly to accommodate rapidly changing conditions in an emergency, the extreme-weather drone can also withstand a tropical storm with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 50 mph. It also can fly in snow and extreme temperatures ranging from below freezing to sweltering heat. It has the capability to see through smoke, tree cover and other obstacles.
While invaluable to our network recovery work, this new technology can also play a vital role in equipping first responders across the country.
Built by AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) it gives first responders’ communications capabilities a major boost, providing a reliable, highly secure and always-on connection. With that responsibility, we’re committed to empowering first responders with the next generation of communications tools. And our all-weather drone is one of the ways we’re delivering.
Think about first responders operating in remote locations, battling a rapidly moving wildfire that has charred the infrastructure they need to communicate. Or search and rescue crews whose mission takes them off the beaten path where a network doesn’t exist. The all-weather flying COW has the capability to hover above harsh conditions and remote terrain to keep them connected when other drone and deployable options aren’t viable.
Plus, with its thermal imaging capabilities, the all-weather drone can see through certain types of roofs to guide fire fighters around burning trusses, helping them to avoid stepping in areas that may be ready to collapse. This capability can also help search and rescue teams locate people trapped between collapsed buildings following an earthquake or lost hikers hidden from view under dense tree cover. 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.
During the hurricane season, we monitor the high winds, high waters and other catastrophic events. This year, we’ll be especially well prepared with this innovative 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.
Art Pregler is AT&T’s unmanned aircraft systems program director. For more information,email [email protected]