AT&T, Intel agree to test drones on LTE network

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AT&T (NYSE: T) is working with Intel to test how drones operate on an LTE network at higher altitudes and in situations that are beyond line of sight, and they're giving a little preview of how it all works at Intel's Drone Zone at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona.

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AT&T and Intel are demonstrating
an LTE-connected drone at MWC.

While Intel demonstrated some high-flying drone acrobatics at CES 2016 last month, it's taking it a step further by adding AT&T at MWC. Intel's RealSense unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology is streaming video and telematics from the air over LTE and using the AT&T core network at its MWC demo.

AT&T and Intel say they're working to solve major issues in the UAV space, including connectivity. Beyond the trade show, AT&T's Internet of Things (IoT) team and the AT&T Foundry innovation center in Palo Alto, Calif., will be working with Intel to evaluate performance of the LTE network at higher altitudes. They will be testing to see how it affects video streaming, transmitting telematics and flight information.

They also say that connecting drones over the network will help address many challenges the category faces, including safety and security concerns, real time communications, potential interference with manned aircraft and supporting future capabilities (such as beyond line of sight), as they are approved by the FAA.

"AT&T and Intel will be testing how the network can enable the most exciting business use cases for drones," said Chris Penrose, senior vice president, IoT Solutions, AT&T, in a press release. "Our LTE network is uniquely positioned to connect industries like delivery, agriculture, construction and insurance. We're using the network to transfer important information, images and video quickly and efficiently — far beyond the boundaries of short range connectivity."

Anil Nanduri, vice president of the New Technology Group and general manager of New Markets within the Perceptual Computing Group at Intel, stated: "This engagement pushes the boundaries in the UAV industry and will pave the way to a connected world in the Internet of Things. Intel believes UAVs have great potential, from inspections, precision agriculture to deliveries of consumer goods and providing emergency disaster relief. We want to grow this market through our collaborations and by integrating new technologies and compute to UAVs."

AT&T rival Verizon (NYSE: VZ), through Verizon Ventures, is a member of the Small UAV Coalition, and Director David Famolari has said that LTE in particular is well suited for drones because UAVs range too far to rely on Wi-Fi alone and transmit too much data to use 3G networks. 

Last year, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) CEO and President John Legere predicted that 2016 would see more practical uses for drones and noted that T-Mobile already uses drones to inspect towers in hard-to-reach areas.  

For more:
- see this release
- see this Venture Beat article

Related articles:
Intel goes big on drones with another acquisition, collision-dodging CES demos
U.S. operators have big role to play in drones, says Small UAV Coalition leader
Report: Google to test drones in U.S. using LTE frequencies
Google, Verizon contribute to NASA's drone management efforts

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