Puerto Rico is still in the process of recovering from Hurricane Maria's devastation to its electrical and communication infrastructure, and AT&T is using drone technology to provide temporary cell phone service in certain areas.
|Drone helicopter equipped with AT&T LTE cell site to
help restore cell service in Puerto Rico (AT&T photo)
You might be familiar with the term "COW" for a temporary "Cell on Wheels" network access site. In Puerto Rico, AT&T teamed up with drone-maker Vanu to create a "Cell on Wings" version of the COW. The phone giant installed an LTE cell site on one of Vanu's Pulse Vapor 55 drones, which looks and flies like a tiny helicopter, and has it hover 200 feet above the ground, according to AT&T. The company says it is the first-ever successful deployment of an LTE cell site on a drone. It was initially used in the San Juan are in early November, but the company planned to use it in other places as well.
AT&T says flying COWs have a lot of potential for users of the "FirstNet" system it is developing for use by first responders in disasters.