Similar to a Special Temporary Authority (STA) that was granted last year, Nokia is asking for permission to conduct airborne experiments with mobile phones aboard an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to measure RF signal strength using three AT&T commercial smartphones and a DRT receiver installed on a drone.
The tests, if approved, would take place in two different Kansas neighborhoods during a six-month window starting in February.
The application includes contact names that match those that were on Nokia’s application last year for a similar setup, but Nokia said in its Jan. 17, 2017, application that the earlier test was never started because Nokia spent the time preparing legal documentation. The application doesn’t provide any further explanation about that.
Indeed, FCC records show Nokia’s application last year was granted for the same two locations requested this year near the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and the Kansas Turnpike in Bonner Springs, Kansas. Those tests also were in partnership with AT&T.
Nokia explains that the tests planned for this year would use three AT&T commercial smartphones (UEs) and the DRT receiver installed on a drone. All three UEs—one from LG and two from Samsung—and the receiver are FCC certified, and all the UEs would be locked onto 1900 MHz (PCS) and/or 1700-2100 MHz (AWS) bands and would not transmit in the 850 MHz cellular band.
The LG device will act as a controller that controls the two Samsung devices and the DRT receiver through Bluetooth, the application says. The two Samsung devices will be used to collect data operating in AT&T’s network. The control system for the drone will operate in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band.
The application also notes that currently, there are no specific rules defined in FCC regulation governing operation of mobile phones aboard UAVs, therefore, they’re asking for the special permission. The tests also will be carried out in accordance with FAA rules.
Nokia states the purpose of the operation: “Conduct a PoC (Proof of Concept) using UAVs to collect radio frequency data for mobile network optimization. This includes performing tests to measure radio frequency signal strength of a mobile network by using three commercial smart phones (UEs) and a DRT receiver installed on a drone (UAV).”
AT&T has made no secret about its intention to use drones to improve its own network—it has implemented a national drone program and uses drones to inspect cell towers and measure network performance at venues and locations across the country, including sports stadiums. Art Pregler, who began his tech career in the U.S. Air Force, oversees AT&T's national drone program. Chris Penrose, president of AT&T’s Internet of Things Solutions, was selected as a member of the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee last year.