This week, Verizon and American Aerospace Technologies Inc. (AATI) conducted a simulation in which wireless technology allowed drones to act as flying cell towers in an emergency situation.
During an emergency management exercise in Cape May County, N.J., first responders used smartphones to connect to a drone and made calls and sent text messages back to their command centers.
The wireless coverage was provided by Verizon’s Airborne LTE service aboard AATI’s long-endurance unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The exercise, directed by the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), included participants from the New Jersey State Police. The scenario was in response to a category II hurricane.
During the exercise, emergency personnel were sent to Belleplain State Forest in a simulated coverage-denied environment, where there is no wireless service. Nearby at Woodbine Municipal Airport, the AATI aircraft with Verizon Airborne LTE was launched and then flown to the forest.
Once the UAS arrived, first responders were able to connect to the Verizon network through the wireless technology inside the drone and communicate back to the county OEM and New Jersey State Police command centers. They even used social media apps on the smartphones.
This tweet has been sent via @verizon‘s “flying cell site” aboard our RS-20 UAS.
The future is here. #AirborneLTE
— American Aerospace (@AmericanAeroInc) June 20, 2017
“This exercise proved that this ‘flying cell site technology’ works in a real-world environment using smartphones off the shelf; in fact, we registered connections on Verizon customer devices beyond the phones we provided to first responders,” explains Christopher Desmond, principal engineer at Verizon Network. “Data gathered from today’s successful flight will be used as we continue to optimize the ‘pocket of coverage area’ we can provide from an aircraft for disaster use in the future.”
To conduct the flights, Cape May County received the green light under an 800-square-mile Certificate of Authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration.