Facebook & AT&T to Test Drones for Wireless Communications Capabilities

1.  Facebook to Test Drones over Menlo Park, CA Campus:

 Facebook recently filed documents with the FCC to request the right to operate a drone over its Menlo Park, CA campus using an experimental radio in the 2.4 GHz band.   The company plans to fly at least one small, wireless-beaming drone at an altitude of 400 feet around its headquarters in the coming months.  The smaller drone is simply being used to test the wireless technology, which Facebook thinks could be used with its larger Aquila drones which are for wireless broadband Internet access in developing countries.

“The purpose of this operation is to test potential new communications applications and equipment in a controlled, low-altitude airborne environment,” one filing says.  Another filings specifies the drone will fly at an altitude of 400 feet. The filings, which Facebook made under its FCL Tech drone subsidiary, says it wants to conduct the tests between October and April. Mike Johnson, Facebook’s Deputy General Counsel, is listed as the point of contact on the filing.

More information at: http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-to-test-wireless-equipment-on-small-drone-2016-10

and http://fortune.com/2016/10/12/facebook-drone-fcc-headquarters/

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook Inc., views a drone flying.

Photo credit: Michael Short—Bloomberg via Getty Images

2.  Telecom Council’s 2016 TC3 Summit featured a case study with AT&T and Qualcomm on Cellular Drone Communication with 4G LTE:

Abstract:  Wide-scale deployments of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones, are expected to reshape countless industries, including agriculture, delivery, insurance, public safety, and real estate to name a few. Cellular networks can bring a new dimension of reliability, security, coverage and seamless mobility to commercial drone operation, enabling connectivity and control of drones Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS). This will be key to safe, wide-scale drone operation and the many new services enabled by them in the years to come. AT&T and Qualcomm are joining forces to trial drone operation on AT&T’s commercial 4G LTE networks — testing key performance indicators (KPI’s) such as coverage, signal strength, throughput, latency and mobility under various real-world scenarios. Findings from this research will not only help us optimize 4G LTE networks for safe and reliable drone operation, but also inform positive developments in drone regulations and 5G specifications as they relate to wide-scale deployment of numerous drone and other mission-critical use cases.

Discussion:  Greg Belaus ([email protected]), Lead Business Development – UAV, Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Group, said AT&T’s “drone play” was to build a technology foundation for connected drones that would create a supporting ecosystem which is part of the Internet of Things (IoTs).

AT&T’s IoT DNA includes:

  • 2.9M connected devices
  • 9.4M connected vehicles
  • IoT Platform tools include:  M2X, global SIM card, LTE modem, internal use cases and collaboration
  • IoT starter kit


AT&T plans to use drones for: cell tower inspection, a venue for real time performance validation, potential future use cases, eg. flying Cellular On Wheels (COWs).  AT&Ts IoT Solutions Group is developing drone solutions for AT&T’s business customers.

Qualcomm is helping to build the drone ecosystem foundation.  It will be used to characterize AT&Ts commercial LTE network at altitude, across its network infrastructure and locations.  Recordings will include: flight path, time of day, network parameters (e.g. frequencies, hand-offs).

The Connected Drone Platform consists of:

  • 4G LTE cellular connectivity
  • Video transmitter
  • GPS receiver
  • Camera Printed Circuit Board (PCB)
  • WiFi PCB
  • Flight Controller PCB


The trials will analyze how UAS can operate safely and more securely on commercial 4G LTE and wireless networks of the future (such as “5G”). The research will look at elements that would impact future drone operations.

–>A key objective is to optimize AT&T’s LTE network for safe drone operations that use it.

Drone Applications mentioned were:

  • Small farmer/agriculture
  • Certify drone operators
  • Drone fleet management
  • Precision location tracking


More information at: https://www.qualcomm.com/news/releases/2016/09/06/qualcomm-and-att-trial-drones-cellular-network-accelerate-wide-scale

Other 2016 TC3 Session Summaries:

Highlights of Telecom Council TC3 Panel on 5G Telecom Regulation

Summary & Conclusions of SD-WAN sessions at Telecom Council’s TC3 Summit

Telecom Council 2016 SPIFFY Award Winners include Simless (Virtual SIM Card)