AT&T and Qualcomm want to connect commercial drones to cell networks

Commercial drones FAA regulations
Depending on who you ask, commercial drone operations are either a necessary component of the supercool future we’re all going to live in, or the first sign of Skynet’s global takeover and our impending doom. But for commercial drone applications, like Amazon’s airborne delivery service, to pan out at all, they will need a system of communication that allows them to travel farther, safer (and that will hopefully fend off doomsday scenarios). AT&T and Qualcomm are currently looking into allowing drones to connect to cell towers to achieve this goal, according to a report in Wired.

One of the biggest limitations facing drones currently is their reliance on Wi-Fi or other direct radio frequency control, so an aircraft can only travel so far from its controller. Allowing drones to connect to cell towers would theoretically permit their control from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, much like how you can control a Nest thermostat from your phone when you’re away from home.

However, current FAA regulations also require that a drone remain within visual range of its operator, a rule the AT&T and Qualcomm hope to overturn if they can prove the efficacy of their system. “There are a lot of great, innovative ideas for drone use out there, but we first need new technology that proves that the devices can fly safely over populated areas and in the national airspace,” Paul Guckian, head of engineering at Qualcomm, told Wired. Guckian had previously played an integral role in developing Wi-Fi systems on commercial airlines.

While the idea is for drones to use the same type of modem hardware found in phones, they will need to operate with a much smaller margin of error. Drones have to receive a signal anywhere from ground level to 400 feet in the air (the maximum altitude allowed by the FAA). They can also move quickly, and will need a reliable method for switching from one cell tower to the next as they travel.

While many commercial drones are planned to operate autonomously, a reliable system that allows for human intervention is important to providing a safety net. In the future, drones could be used for much more than package delivery, including search and rescue operations, environmental and infrastructure monitoring, and more.

Mobile

Apple’s AirPower wireless charging mat may be coming soon

At its September event in 2017, Apple unveiled the AirPower, a new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Mobile

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Gaming

Get a new Nintendo Switch? You'll need to grab these accessories

The Switch is a capable console right out of the box, but it has its limitations. Thankfully, these Nintendo Switch accessories will allow you to make the most of Nintendo's latest console.
Computing

Netgear’s new Nighthawk Tri-band AX12 router brings Wi-Fi 6 speeds to the masses

Available in May for $600, the Nighthawk Tri-band AX12 router allows for maximum Wi-Fi performance on smart home devices and offers everything needed for gaming, streaming, and other high-bandwidth applications. 
Emerging Tech

China has cloned its best police dog. Now it wants to mass-produce more

Scientists in China have cloned the Sherlock Holmes of police sniffer dogs, with possible plans to mass produce it in the future. Here's why its creators think that's a great idea.
Emerging Tech

Scientists use drone to map Icelandic cave in preparation for Mars exploration

Researchers from the SETI Institute and Astrobotic Technology have demonstrated a way that astronauts may be able to map Martian caves using a Lidar-equipped drone that can travel autonomously without GPS.
Emerging Tech

A 3D printer the size of a small barn will produce entire homes in Saudi Arabia

If you’re looking for a 3D printer that can comfortably fit on the side of your desk… well, Danish company Cobod International’s enormous new 3D house printer probably isn’t for you.
Deals

Need a ride? Amazon is slashing prices on popular electric scooters

If you’re not much of a cyclist or if you’re looking for a lazier way to zip about town, an electric scooter should be right up your alley. Two of our favorites, the foldable Glion Dolly and the eco-friendly Razor scooter, are on sale…
Emerging Tech

Unexpected particle plumes discovered jetting out of asteroid Bennu

The OSIRIS-REx craft traveled to asteroid Bennu last year and won't return until 2023. But the mission is already throwing up unexpected findings, like plumes of particles which are being ejected from the surface of the asteroid.
Emerging Tech

Trip to Neptune’s moon, Triton, could inform search for extraterrestrial life

NASA has proposed sending a craft to Neptune to study its largest moon, Triton. Studying Triton could offer clues to how liquid water is maintained on planets, which may indicate what to look for when searching for life beyond our planet.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover passes its tests with flying colors

The Mars 2020 rover team has been undertaking a series of tests to see if the craft will be able to launch, navigate, and land on the Red Planet. Called Systems Test 1, or ST1, these tests represent the first test drive of the new rover.
Outdoors

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Petzl to Tikkid, here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

A hive of activity: Using honeybees to measure urban pollution

According to a new study from Vancouver, bees could help us understand urban pollution. Scientists have found an innovative way to measure the level of source of pollution in urban environments: by analyzing honey.
Emerging Tech

Spacewalk a success as astronauts upgrade batteries on the ISS

The International Space Station was treated to some new batteries on Friday, thanks to two NASA astronauts who took a spacewalk for nearly seven hours in order to complete the upgrades.