Verizon Has Big Plans for UAVs in Airborne LTE Operations


The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking flight at Verizon: The telecommunications giant has announced a new strategy to drive innovation and widespread adoption for in-flight wireless connectivity through its Airborne LTE Operations (ALO) initiative, which will include the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Two years in the making, Verizon’s plan includes as follows:

  • The successful completion of technical trials in various U.S. locations by using a combination of unmanned and manned aircraft on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.
  • An early-adopter simulation exercise in Cape May, N.J., using UAVs to demonstrate how Verizon’s 4G LTE network can help first responders and emergency management personnel enhance disaster-recovery efforts.
  • The launch of a new suite of services as early as 2017 on Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT platform to help developers and businesses create and manage a wide range of ALO-enabled applications backed by secure cloud and analytics capabilities.
  • A new device certification process, now available, that sets forth requirements to enable access to wireless connectivity for UAS on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.
  • Collaboration with partners such as American Aerospace (AATI) and Sierra Wireless to pave the way for aerial long-range applications taking place beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS).

Verizon says its network team began work to develop the technology for in-flight LTE operations in 2014 and throughout 2015.

This year, Verizon evolved its Airborne LTE Operations even further by engaging AATI to test connectivity between aerial platforms and Verizon’s 4G LTE network. The initial controlled trial was conducted with a 17-foot-wingspan UAS, which tested aerial inspection techniques that can be applied to the hundreds of miles of pipeline in rural Virginia. In addition, when connected to Verizon’s 4G LTE network, the technique can be applied nationwide.

“This latest trial demonstrated how emerging technology combined with wireless networks can improve safety and security,” says Mike Haberman, vice president of network operations at Verizon. “A nationwide, reliable 4G LTE network is the foundation for the future of mobile IoT in the air.”

As a result of the trial, Verizon deemed its 4G LTE 700 MHz network safe for in-flight wireless connectivity, which led to the creation of device and service requirements as part of Verizon’s ALO initiative.

Together with AATI, Verizon is also exploring the next steps in in-flight cellular services for UAS nationally on its 4G LTE network. Once federal regulations allow UAV operations BVLOS, new tests will focus on BVLOS command-and-control cellular network communications for long-distance UAVs, says Verizon.

“By scaling the systems required to connect UAS and UAVs to our LTE network nationwide through our ALO initiative, we’ve set the stage for a wide range of applicable solutions to be delivered via our ThingSpace open development platform across multiple sectors,” adds Mike Lanman, senior vice president of enterprise products and IoT at Verizon.

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