The two telecommunications giants are taking steps to be a bigger part of the drone industry both as users of drones and providers of networks for drones. With thousands of cell towers across the country both AT&T and Verizon are positioned to be part of a systems that helps to manage drone traffic and providing data for drones as they fly. Below is a summary of some of the things both of these companies are doing.
- In September of 2016 AT&T’s efforts to use drones to inspect cell tower went ‘fully operational’. AT&T outsources these inspections to drone service provider partners throughout the country. Using drones has helped reduce maintenance times by 900%.
- AT&T is also in the process of testing its towers to see if they can provide a data network for drones and be part of a drone traffic management system.
- Recently AT&T tested its COW drone (Cell On Wings), which is basically just a flying cell tower. The COW could be used to provide coverage in dead areas, bring additional support to large events and even provide coverage in the aftermath of a disaster.
- Verizon just acquired drone service company SkyWard. The Portland, Oregon-based company has a drone management platform to help plan flights, avoid restricted airspace, register aircraft with the FAA and connect to data services networks. Basically, this acquisitions gives Verizon the ability to offer a functioning way to integrate drones into their system with easy to use software.
- In October of 2016 Verizon announced that it was offering a wireless data plan for drones, starting at $25 a month.
- Verizon is also using drones for tower inspections, in particular, making the news for using drones to inspect towers in the wake of Hurricane Matthew last year.
Keep an eye out for more developments, but it looks like AT&T and Verizon will have increasing presence in the drone space.