Drones are developing so rapidly that the Federal Aviation Authority can’t keep up, but most unmanned aerial vehicles are still hamstrung by a limited range, forcing pilots to keep them in view. AT&T and Intel are hoping to change that. The two companies are testing drones on AT&T’s LTE network, more commonly used by cellphones, tablets, and other devices on the ground, to see how it performs at altitude.
AT&T says that using an LTE network will address safety concerns, stopping signals sent between drone and pilot from interfering with manned aircraft, and potentially allowing consumer drones to fly far beyond the line of sight of their operator in the future. Where currently flying your drone out of range often results in it falling out of the sky, by using existing country-wide LTE networks, drones could soon stream high-quality live video back to their operators across long distances.
The company picks out the agriculture, construction, insurance, and delivery industries as being particular benefactors from the technology, possibly allowing pilots in a central office to guide fleets of UAVs around the skies miles from their location as the US military does with Predator drones. Unlike the military, however, Intel has chosen a slightly less aggressive model for its LTE tests. The Yuneec Typhoon H — already fitted with Intel’s RealSense cameras that allow it to detect and avoid obstacles while in the air — will beam back live footage and telematics through AT&T’s network as it flies.