AT&T Flying COWs

2022-04-22T12:50:57-04:00March 24, 2017|Categories: Design and Engineering|0 Comments

In October of 2016 RCR reported FCC approval allowing Qualcomm and AT&T to test the deployment and use of drones for specific use cases.   Well last month AT&T provided an update on these trials and announced the addition of “flying COWs” to their barnyard.  COWs in the cellular industry often refer to “Cell on Wheels”.  In this case however COW stands for “Cell on Wings” and the wings are actually drones.  Drones packed with cellular technology are being trialed as solutions to provide temporary coverage during natural disasters and special events.

AT&T isn’t the only wireless service provider looking to use drones.  Verizon announced similar trials last year and recently acquired Sykward, a drone services company.

In addition to temporary coverage solutions, the wireless service providers are also using drones to perform tower inspections and assess network infrastructure damage following extreme weather events.

AT&T’s Flying COW is expected to “reshape AT&T’s network by enhancing coverage in any area it is deployed”.  And since the Flying COW is tethered to a vehicle-based ground station supplying power, the enhanced coverage can potentially exist for an extended period of time.  


  • AT&T plans on using them to restore communications in areas affected by natural disasters and to provide extra coverage at popular venues like concerts and sporting events, where the sheer number of people can cause headaches.
  • After months of work, the company performed its initial test flight outside Atlanta.
  • According to AT&T, a single one of the flying cell towers can provide coverage for 40 square miles.

“However, before you go dreaming of a world where these fancy drones fill in all the patchy coverage anomalies in your neighborhood you should know that these powerful cell boosters are likely to be deployed in only the most crucial cases of network downtime.”

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