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How drones can provide cell phone service following extreme weather and disasters

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Woodbine, New Jersey Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Blizzards. Earthquakes. Mother Nature can strike at any moment, leaving behind a path of destruction. If severe weather strikes, power and communication services can be disrupted for days. In early March, Verizon and American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI), took the next step in advancing cutting edge wireless communications from a drone for disaster response with their fourth test of capabilities.

With this "flying cell site," first responders can connect to the Verizon network through the wireless technology inside the drone, and communicate back to necessary emergency personnel on the ground.  Previous exercises have taken place at the  Woodbine Airport in southern New Jersey in a simulated coverage-denied (no wireless signal) environment. This allows a "pocket of coverage" so first responders can call, text and transfer images back to office of emergency management (OEM) centers to coordinate responses in real-time.

"We have a long history of providing critical communications services whenever a disaster strikes, such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the past year alone. Years of consistent investment and building for reliability year round allows us to support first responders and communities in need, when they need it the most, said Christopher Desmond, Verizon principal engineer.

AATI crew prepares for launch.

AATI drone in flight over southern New Jersey.  It weighs close to 200 lbs and has a 17 foot wingspan.

AATI flight crew inside the command center at Woodbine, NJ.

Close up of the AATI drone which is gas powered.  It can fly between 15-20 hours.

AATI crew prepares aircraft for launch.

Chase plane view of following unmanned aircraft system. A requirement when flying drone beyond visual line of sight.

First responder with smartphone during exercise in June 2017.

AATI drone in flight.

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Tags: USA