To Make Drone Deliveries Work, AT&T Is Tapping Into the Cell Network


Sure, the feds finally made it reasonably easy to get a drone pilot's certificate, but it's clear they still see unmanned aviation as a dodgy proposition. Among the many questions that come with any new tech is a basic limitation: The radio links and Wi-Fi that control the aircraft limit range to a few thousand feet, and aren't robust enough for reliable drone control over long distances. So the new rules, which took effect last month, limit drone use to visual line-of-sight operation, hamstringing operators interested in delivery, search-and-rescue, and remote-inspection operations. The solution may lurk in your own line-of-sight--on top of water towers and rooftops, or shrouded by poorly faked roadside "trees." Qualcomm Technologies and AT&T announced today they're collaborating to make wide-ranging drone operations reliable and safe, using current 4G LTE and future 5G networks.