Have you ever seen a cow fly? Of course, not an actual cow — udders and all — but a drone “Cell on Wings.”
AT&T has successfully tested one of its Flying COWs in an airfield outside Atlanta The telecom company believes this test flight was an industry first and its recent achievement could have life-saving implications for the future of disaster response.
The Flying COWs are really just drones carrying a small cell and antennas, according to AT&T. Connecting the drone to the ground is a tether that provides a secured fiber data connection, as well as power to the COW itself. Thanks to the tether, AT&T says, the COW should be able to remain in the air “indefinitely” — assuming a pilot is also able to monitor and operate the drone indefinitely.
In a disaster recovery situation, when cell towers may be knocked, COWs would allow people to send texts, make calls and get on the internet in an area of up to 40 square miles. The COWs would also be able to operate in remote areas because they don’t depend on preexisting wired or wireless infrastructure.
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In a blog post, AT&T writes, “[the Flying COW] can follow firefighters battling a quickly moving wildfire line—helping them stay connected while they fight blazes. The flying COW is tough. It can fly and provide coverage in bad weather — from high winds to heavy smoke.”
The company also says the Flying COWs could be used to help beef up cell signals at events with lots of people looking for service, such as a music festival — or maybe even a Royals game.