A data plan for their drones would soon be available for companies.
Working with drone makers to connect the flying vehicles to Verizon’s wireless network would soon be started by Verizon Communications Inc., the company said. The company officials said in an interview that drone data plans will start at $25 a month for 1 gigabyte of data and $80 for 10 gigabytes. The prices roughly align with what consumers pay now for data.
Initially, connecting to the internet during flight, and streaming videos, pictures or other sensory data back to earth would be allowed by the data plans. Companies that inspect oil pipelines, farming yields or wildfires cold make use of this data plan, Verizon says. However this service could emerge and develop into a system of remotely piloting drones eventually.
Federal regulations currently require that the drones in most cases can’t be flown higher than 400 feet without special permission and a drone operator to remain in direct sight of the drone during its flight course. Remote controls that use free, public airwaves to create a direct link between the pilot and the drone is currently the technology that are typically used to operate the drones today.
While widespread package-delivery operations are at least several years away and the use of autonomous delivery drones that firms such as Amazon.com Inc. and United Parcel Service Inc. are testing, are still hotly debated, future drone regulations could allow the use of autonomous flying of drones.
By providing data on how companies use the service, which Verizon is calling Airborne LTE Operations, or ALO, the company hopes that this new technology and service will help inform the discussion on autonomous delivery drones.
“We believe we are uniquely positioned to enable the sort of data collection that will be necessary for regulators to make these decisions,” said David McCarley, a technology fellow at Verizon Wireless.
This service will help move the discussion “from the white board to the tarmac,” he said.
To plug holes in its own network during emergencies, such as when networks are damaged during storms, Verizon also plans to use the drones like flying cell towers. The drones will eventually be added to the toolkit of trucks and trailers with temporary cell towers used in such situations that the carrier company already has.
Verizon held a demonstration in Cape May, N.J., with drone-maker American Aerospace Technologies Inc. on Thursday and it has been working on the technology for two years. Methods to connect drones to its network are also being tested by AT&T Inc. Connecting more objects to the network—like drones—are an important, if unproven, future revenue stream as both carriers are facing slowing growth in their core wireless businesses as the majority of Americans now have smartphones.
While the idea has remained a test project, using drones as a means to connect remote areas to the internet, has been a subject experiment for tech companies like Facebook Inc. for several years now.
(Adapted from The Wall Street Journal)