Verizon unveils 'THOR' vehicle in NYC on National First Responder's Day

The company said it hopes to one day deploy the all-purpose truck during natural disasters.
Written by Jonathan Greig, Contributor

Verizon displayed its new Tactical Humanitarian Operations Response vehicle -- nicknamed THOR -- in New York City on Thursday in honor of National First Responder's Day. 

The massive truck is designed to help first responders dealing with storms or other natural disasters by providing networking services in hard hit areas, drones and other tools built to help those assisting others.

The THOR vehicle on display in Brooklyn on Thursday is a prototype and Cory Davis, director of Verizon Response & Public Safety Operations, said THOR was most recently used at Camp Upshur in Quantico to help the Defense Department and National Guard manage the processing of up to 14,000 Afghan refugees.

Jonathan Greig

Verizon described THOR as a "mobile, private Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband and mobile edge compute rapid-response command center vehicle" while Davis said it was a "living lab" to test out 5G use cases for first responders. 

Davis said Verizon has been taking the vehicle across the country to test potential uses with local, state and federal first responder organizations. 

He added that they are still figuring out whether they plan to sell the vehicle, rent it out to first responder organizations or offer it for free in certain humanitarian situations. 

"It's built for any type of large-scale disaster -- it could be a hurricane, fire or humanitarian response," he said. "It's up for any challenge and is fully interoperable, meaning multiple agencies could plug into it and connect." 

The prototype also comes with multiple drones, space for at least nine passengers and multiple screens to manage dozens of devices that can be connected to the network created by the vehicle. 

Verizon said it envisioned the truck being used in situations where internet is spotty or coverage is challenging. First responders at the event peppered Verizon officials with dozens of tough questions, asking about how the system would respond to situations involving wildfires, tornados or hurricanes. NYPD and FDNY members questioned whether the vehicle would work in a city like New York, with tiny streets and thousands of buildings that make connectivity difficult at times. 

Davis noted that the truck also offers full radio interoperability and is built on a modified Ford F650 chassis. It also comes with commercial satellite options. 

Verizon began work on the truck last November and finished it by April, even outfitting the vehicle with two generators so it could run for a week without direct power, Davis explained. 

"The great thing about THOR is that it's completely self-contained. The network and the core are all inside of the vehicle, so essentially we could bring this thing anywhere in the world and we can broadcast a 5G ultra wide band signal, 2 to 4 Gbs. We can do CBRS, LTE, microwave. If we had multiple THORs, we could even create a mesh network," Davis said.  

"Verizon has over three decades of partnerships with emergency response units. This is built off of their feedback. We've been working with multiple state and federal agencies as well as local agencies, asking them what they need. We took all that feedback and put it into this vehicle. We wanted to know, if they could build a swiss army knife on wheels, what would it look like? This was a partnership between us and first responders."

Editorial standards