Although a favorite among geeks, techies, and Pokemon Go players, drones aren’t always welcome in all places and at all times. Some have even taken to shooting them from the sky, if a bird of prey doesn’t get to it first, that is. Undaunted by that mixed perception of such flying robots, AT&T is still looking to the skies. The carrier has revealed ongoing work to use drones to improve its LTE coverage, especially in densely packed areas and events as well as aid it in the maintenance of its infrastructure.
AT&T is coy about the details, technical or otherwise, of its drone project that doesn’t even have a formal name yet. But it does give some concrete examples on where it plans these to be used. For one, it can be used to extend and boost LTE signals, especially during very packed events where attendees are scrambling to live stream or post photos and updates online. And even outside those events, the drones can provide AT&T better and immediate feedback into the quality of service in certain areas and allow them to immediately make changes.
Drones will also be used to perform aerial inspections of AT&T’s cell towers, enabling the carrier to access nooks and crannies that are impossible or highly dangerous for humans to get to. That, AT&T says, will benefit its customers’ experience down the line by allowing it to address issues with cell sites faster than ever.
AT&T says it has been exploring these drone possibilities for a year now and has finally reached a milestone that will allow it to use it in a trial setting. It will be demoed for the first time in public at its SHAPE conference in San Francisco this week.
Of course, how it will turn out in the end will depend on a lot of factors outside of AT&T’s direct control. Government agencies are increasing their scrutiny of drones, especially after related infractions. And people might still not take too kindly even to something advertised to be innocent and beneficial, considering all the safety and privacy considerations involved.