Those who live in rural areas could gain 5G access thanks to an experimental new drone. The AT&T 5G Flying COW broadcasts a strong 5G signal within a range of about 10 miles. It’s a stunning and strange achievement, partially aided by tethering the drone for power.
The weird name, “Flying COW,” is actually an acronym for Flying Cell on Wings. It’s literally a floating cell tower. AT&T says that the drones can be operated from thousands of miles away, potentially opening the door to high-speed cell service in even the most remote or dangerous areas.
AT&T previously used LTE Flying COWs to provide internet access after natural disasters, such as Hurricane Michael—there’s years of work behind this tech. But due to the short range of 5G signals, the 5G Flying COW isn’t exactly suited for disaster relief. So, what’s the point?
Well, AT&T wants the 5G Flying COW to permanently expand its network. According to Art Pregler, UAS Program Director at AT&T, future COWs could “autonomously fly without tethers for months without landing, using solar power to provide secure, reliable, and fast 5G connectivity to large numbers of users over wide geographic areas.”
Researchers at AT&T are currently working on an untethered version of the drone, though of course, advances in battery technology may be required to use these things for more than an hour. Sticking a drone in the air for “months without landing” is quite the lofty goal.
Even weirder, AT&T says it’s “building a litter of RoboDogs” that can perform search and rescue missions or disable bombs. The company mentioned this offhandedly in a press release and didn’t provide any photos of the RoboDogs.