US operator AT&T tested 5G network capabilities on its drones to provide faster connectivity to the public and first responders during natural disasters or other events.

AT&T is in the process of retrofitting its drones for 5G, which will take about a month, before they are deployed as needed.

AT&T has previously used 4G LTE connectivity on its Flying COW (cell on wings) drones, but the mobile operator has laid claim to being the first to provide 5G network speeds.

Ethan Hunt, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Principal Program Manager, AT&T, stated other companies have used 5G for the command and control of drones, or to stream video, but not to provide a 5G network.

In addition to faster speeds, the 5G Flying COW can connect to a larger number of devices while providing service to rural or underserved areas across the US.

The 5G Flying Cow drone underwent a test flight in April in an open field in rural Missouri. Hunt explained there was an intermittent, weak LTE signal in the area prior to the launch of the 5G Flying COW.

The tethered drone flew about 300 feet up prior to transmitting 5G coverage across approximately 10 square miles.

Art Pregler, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Director, noted the mobile operator was currently working through technical challenges to expand the capabilities of its 5G Flying COW.

The to-do list includes autonomously flying the drones minus the tethers for months without landing by using solar power.