This week AT&T, deployed its helicopter Flying COW (Cell on Wings) for the first time ever. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, 48% of the cell sites in Puerto Rico is still out of service. Cellular company AT&T launched their Flying COW on Tuesday in an effort to re-establish connectivity throughout the area. This is the first time a drone equipped with cellular technology has been used successfully to provide data, voice, and text services to customers after a disaster.
AT&T’s Flying COW
The Flying COW flies 200 feet above the ground and can extend coverage to customers in an up to 40-square mile area, farther than other temporary cell sites. Ideal for providing coverage in remote areas. Evaluating the capabilities of the Flying COW in Puerto Rico will help to assess how first responders can use drones in the future to temporarily restore connectivity.
The Flying Cow is currently deployed in the heavily impacted San Juan area, but AT&T is planning to relocate the drone in the coming days to support impacted areas in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As of today, AT&T reports that nearly 70% of the population in Puerto Rico and nearly 95% of the population in the U.S. Virgin Islands are connected again.
Other companies, like Verizon, have been testing drones with cellular technology to provide similar connectivity services after disasters, but we have not yet heard if they are active in Puerto Rico.