AT&T, Intel hope 4G will let drones fly higher and further than ever
OREANDA-NEWS. February 25, 2016. AT&T has ambitions to connect everything from cars to whole cities. So why not drones, too?
The Dallas wireless carrier and chip giant Intel said Monday that they would partner to investigate adding 4G LTE connectivity on drones, which would be a key element in getting them to fly higher and further than ever before. The companies will offer an early look at their work at the Intel Drone Zone here in Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress trade show.
The agreement marks yet another step in drone technology, which grown in popularity as more consumers take up amateur flying and as businesses look at how these pint-sized unmanned aerial vehicles can help with tasks like construction, film-making and deliveries. Most drones use short-range signals like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or radio airwaves. By tapping a nationwide cellular network, the drone could theoretically go as far as its batteries will let it.
Since the US Federal Aviation Administration restricts long-distance drone flights, the companies are still in the testing stages. The hope is to have drones ready when the authorities ease the rules.
Beyond range, adding LTE connectivity allows new features like video streaming, or letting the drone send back diagnostic, telematics and flight information. A cellular connection could eventually enable drones to deliver packages over long distances or help with other industries.
"Intel believes UAVs have great potential, from inspections, precision agriculture to deliveries of consumer goods and providing emergency disaster relief," said Anil Nanduri, vice president of Intel's New Technology Group.
In addition, a cellular network would reduce the risk of interference by using licensed airwaves rather than public wavelengths, a la Wi-Fi.