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Verizon (VZ) Forges Ahead with New LTE Drone Project

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U.S. telecom behemoth Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ - Free Report) is forging ahead with its drone application plans. The company aims to incorporate 4G LTE connections to drones and use its IoT platform, ThingSpace for airborne applications such as drone surveillance of industrial assets with the help of its Airborne LTE Operations (ALO) initiative. The ALO project has been executing several tests since 2014. The drones are useful in their easy usage with different Internet-enabled communications applications.

Verizon came up with its ALO plans this year by bringing in American Aerospace Technologies Inc. (AATI) to test connectivity between aerial platforms and Verizon’s 4G LTE network. The initial trial was conducted with a 17-foot wingspan unmanned aircraft system in conjunction with AATI.

The company claims to have successfully conducted numerous technical trials in different locations throughout U.S. for connecting drones to its LTE wireless network. In these trials, the company used a combination of unmanned and manned aircraft on its LTE network. The main purpose of the evaluation was to illustrate how the combination of emerging technology and wireless networks can improve safety and security. It also marks the emergence of a secured 4G LTE network for future Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

One of the main reasons behind Verizon’s collaboration with AATI is to gain regulatory clearances wherein unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations will be allowed beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Once the company gets the regulatory approval in relation to the above, it plans to conduct tests to focus on BVLOS command-and-control cellular network communications for long-distance UAVs.

Recent Sector Developments

Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM - Free Report) , the largest manufacturer of wireless chipsets, has teamed up with U.S. telecom giant AT&T Inc.(T - Free Report) to evaluate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones on commercial 4G LTE networks. Notably, the trial will put the safety and security of drones on 4G LTE and 5G networks to test. The UAS test was carried out on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight drone development platform in Sep 2016 at Qualcomm Technologies' San Diego Campus in an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)-authorized UAS Flight Center. The test centre has real world conditions, ideal for testing drones. Also, it does not affect AT&T’s regular network activities.

Recently, Verizon made an announcement regarding its plans to start working with drone makers to connect the drones to Verizon’s wireless networks.

Meanwhile, two leading U.S. cable MSOs (multi service operators), namely, Comcast Corp. (CMCSA - Free Report) and Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR - Free Report) have declared that they will utilize their respective MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) agreements with Verizon to enter into wireless arena.

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