AT&T today announced that it had reached the trial phase of a national drone program designed to improve wireless LTE coverage in situations where the network might otherwise be overloaded.

Indeed, as anyone who has attended a large public event can attest, the cellular service at places like large sports stadiums and expansive outdoor music festivals often leaves a whole lot to be desired. With tens of thousands of individuals simultaneously trying to text and send photos and videos, trying to get anything through is typically an exercise in frustration.

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And that’s where AT&T’s new drone initiative comes into play. In addition to improving connectivity at large public gatherings, AT&T envisions the technology being used to provide enhanced coverage in disaster situations where communication is crucial yet severely limited. Indeed, in many disaster situations, even being able to make a phone call can be impossible, thus making the implementation of cell-connected drones all the more important.

What’s more, AT&T notes that it’s also exploring the use of drones as a means to inspect cell towers and improve service much more quickly, as pictured in the photo at the top of this post.

Connecting drones to our nationwide LTE network lets us capture data and feed it directly to our systems. In turn, this can allow us to make changes to our network in real time.

By using drones to inspect a cell site, we’re able to conduct inspections more quickly and safely – and even access parts of a tower that a human simply could not. We anticipate this will allow us to improve our customers’ experience by enhancing our cell sites faster than ever before.

For as many shenanigans as drones tend to get into these days — whether they’re spying on sunbathers atop of wind turbines or roasting turkeys with an attached flamethrower — it’s refreshing to see AT&T trying to harness drone technology for something useful.

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