Drones, since their invention, have been used for a variety of purposes. The military uses them for security and offense, the common consumer uses them for leisure or light photography, filmmakers and photographers use them for their picture perfect shots. But one thing which is common among all of the usages is connectivity. As we know that without proper wireless communication any device would suffer. Despite having several cell towers and brilliant satellite communication, things can still go out of hand at times and that might result in a total blackout or an off the grid situation which might prove to be devastating in crucial times.

One of the world’s leading network provider Sprint has effectively come up with a concept which can address this issue. They are one of the first companies to introduce mobile cell towers on drones. They have put a mini-cell tower like device known as the Magic Box, which is also developed by Sprint , on top of a drone which can enhance the connectivity up to a distance of 10 square miles (26 square kilometers). The Magic Box is an earlier product of Sprint which is the size of a shoe box and sits in a house to improve indoor 4G LTE service using Sprint’s 2.5GHz spectrum. Unlike other signal boosters, Magic Box doesn’t require a broadband connection. Instead, it uses a dedicated cellular channel to the nearest Sprint cell tower.

Sprint adapted this technology to use it on a drone to temporarily boost network capacity in certain circumstances like a concert, sports contest or to restore cell phone service following a disaster like a hurricane, said Günther Ottendorfer, Chief Operating Officer of technology at Sprint. Generally, wireless carriers boost network coverage by mounting mobile cell towers on wheels in special cases or in affected areas, which has a much higher possibility of damage and may not provide service to its full potential.

Hurricane Harvey in the U.S caused great devastation and Sprint’s flying tower drones helped in communication with survivors and victims.

The major advantage in using UAVs are faster deployment and a much wider coverage as the drone can fly up to an astounding 400 feet. Wireless carriers have already begun using drones in the wake of big disasters. Following Hurricane Harvey, which devastated areas around Houston and the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana, all four major US wireless carriers flew drones in flooded areas to assess damage to towers and other infrastructure.

Flying COW, a similar networking UAV by a company AT&T helped Puerto Rico restore its network.

Such technology could prove instrumental not only in special scenarios but also in remote areas and disconnected parts of the world. In rescue operations, in open waters, trekkers on a hill-top, rural areas, etc. the mobile flying cell tower concept could benefit uncountable people. It could possibly introduce the world with an all new perspective to people who have never seen the internet or have to trek for kilometers to make a phone call.