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Verizon plots unmanned aerial LTE services potentially as early as 2017

The move highlights how telecom carriers are plunging into Internet of Things connectivity services.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Here's the UAV being prepped for an LTE test. Credit: Verizon

Verizon said it could launch Internet of Things services that combine unmanned aerial vehicles and systems and its LTE network as early as 2017.

The company outlined plans around what it calls its Airborne LTE Operations effort. Verizon said it has completed technical trials using manned and unmanned aircraft on its 4G LTE network. One simulation highlighted how unmanned aircraft systems can use the Verizon network for first responders and emergency management.

According to Verizon the testing for in-flight LTE operations started two years ago.

Verizon's effort is in step with a move by AT&T and Qualcomm to test the intersection of wireless access and drones. Both AT&T and Verizon see the Internet of Things as a growth market for their networks.

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The plan from here is for Verizon to add a suite of services to its ThingSpace IoT platform for developers to create applications for airborne LTE. Verizon has also opened up a certification process and has partnered with American Aerospace and Sierra Wireless to develop applications beyond line of sight.

Verizon added that it is prepping for when federal regulations allow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to go beyond line of sight. Once UAVs are allowed beyond sight, Verizon can use its network for central command and control.

Although applications and industries have yet to be determined, Verizon in its statement mentioned agriculture, emergency management, and infrastructure inspections of pipelines and high-voltage lines as possibilities.

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