Wireless provider AT&T has debuted its helicopter Flying COW, to provide data, voice, and text services to customers as it works to restore its Puerto Rico network, which Hurricane María virtually destroyed when it made landfall on Sept. 20.
Executives confirmed Puerto Rico is the first market where it is deploying the experimental technology to connect residents after a disaster.
The Flying COW is providing wireless connectivity to customers in an up to 40-square miles. It flies 200 feet above the ground and can extend coverage farther than other temporary cell sites, AT&T stated.
It is “ideal for providing coverage in remote areas,” the carrier added.
Exploring the capabilities of this technology in wake of Hurricane María’s devastation will help temporarily restore connectivity and assess how first responders can use the drone in the future, the company said.
“An unprecedented event such as Hurricane María has required we look to innovative solutions to connect customers, first responders, and disaster recovery teams,” AT&T stated.
“From our involvement with ‘Vanu,’ to our unique use of portable cell sites at the base of clusters of cell towers, testing the Flying COW is just one way we’re using technology in new ways,” it added.
Currently deployed in the San Juan area, AT&T plans to relocate the Flying COW in the coming days to support additional areas, including the military hospital at Manatí Coliseum.
Teams are working around the clock to restore the network and deploy additional assets in impacted areas in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AT&T reported.
As of Monday, nearly 70 percent of the population in Puerto Rico and nearly 95 percent of the population in the USVI are connected again, the carrier noted.