The growing background noise emanating from the telecoms scene regarding Unmanned Aircraft Systems means their nick-name has never been more apposite.

Scott Bicheno

September 7, 2016

2 Min Read
AT&T and Qualcomm drone on

The growing background noise emanating from the telecoms scene regarding Unmanned Aircraft Systems means their nickname has never been more apposite.

The latest piece of droning comes from US giants AT&T and Qualcomm, who seem to think it’s such a big deal that they’re testing these mini helicopters on commercial LTE networks. They’re also investigating how these things will interact with future networks and have stuck their collective neck out to say one of them might even be called 5G.

The rise of the drone has been somewhat surreal. Not so long ago the term was reserved for dull, repetitive noises or insectoid studs. Then it became a handy way to bomb people without risking any of our own chaps. Now, however, the term seems to exclusively refer to little remote-controlled flying things that are apparently expected to be pretty much omnipotent. They’re already being set up  to deliver anything from Amazon parcels to pizzas and telcos are seriously considering using them to help with coverage.

This announcement, however, concerns how you control the little blighters, and presents the prospect of regular punters controlling one with their smartphone as they go about their daily business, like some kind of robotic pet. Not only will this make the current epidemic of Pokemon Go mishaps pale into insignificance, but asks how the hell is all this aerial traffic going to be policed.

It’s not difficult to imagine a time when it literally rains drones, especially since a major reason for looking into DoLTE is to allow them to be controlled beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS, apparently).

“The trial with a carrier with the reach and technology of AT&T is a significant step in the development of connectivity technologies for small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS), including optimization of LTE networks and advancement of 5G technology for drones,” said Matt Grob, CTO of Qualcomm Technologies. “Not only do we aim to analyze wide-scalable LTE optimization for safe, legal commercial SUAS use cases with beyond line-of-sight connectivity, but the results can help inform positive developments in drone regulations and 5G specifications as they pertain to wide-scale deployment of numerous drone use cases.”

“Many of the anticipated benefits of drones, including delivery, inspections and search and rescue will require a highly secure and reliable connection,” said Chris Penrose, SVP of IoT Solutions at AT&T. “With a focus on both regulatory and commercial needs, LTE connectivity has the potential to deliver optimal flight plans, transmit flight clearances, track drone location and adjust flight routes in near real-time. Solving for the connectivity challenges of complex flight operations is an essential first step to enabling how drones will work in the future.”

That sounds lovely guys but just be honest, this is just a very expensive way of rebranding remote controlled toys so it’s OK for grown-ups to use them isn’t it? You know that’s the truth, we know that’s the truth, just admit it and we’ll respect you more for it.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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