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February 22, 2017

Drones and blimps will soon be providing cellphone service in the U.K.

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Drones aren’t just being used to deliver your Amazon packages — they’re also being used to deliver cell service in the U.K.

If spotty reception is cramping your style, you may want to look to the skies. That is, if you live in the United Kingdom. On Tuesday, British mobile carrier EE debuted a new plan to use its own patent-pending balloon- and drone-based mobile coverage solutions in order to provide service for its most rural customers.

EE, which already boasts the largest 4G coverage in the U.K., demonstrated how it would use “mini mobile sites attached to a helium balloon” in a setup it calls a Helikite to provide 4G mobile coverage to areas in need. Mini sites can also be attached to drones in order to offer more targeted coverage, which may prove useful in search and rescue operations.

“We are going to extraordinary lengths to connect communities across the U.K. Innovation is essential for us to go further than we’ve ever gone, and deliver a network that’s more reliable than ever before,” said EE CEO Marc Allera in a release.

“Rural parts of the U.K. provide more challenges to mobile coverage than anywhere else, so we have to work harder there — developing these technologies will ultimately help our customers, even in the most hard-to-reach areas.”

More: Watch this UPS truck launch a drone on a delivery run

These drone- and balloon-based solutions could prove key during disasters like major flooding, when connectivity and communication is of the utmost importance. EE says that its technology will allow phone users to make calls and access the internet from extremely remote areas, and in order to keep this emergency services network up and running, EE is also planning on rolling out rapid-response vehicles to provide further assistance during outages. These vehicles, however, won’t be airborne — rather, they’ll be Mitsubishi trucks featuring 11-foot mobile masts that can drive around to ensure that emergency services never lose signal.

“Looking ahead, I see innovations like this revolutionizing the way people connect. We’re developing the concept of ‘coverage on demand,’” Allera added. “We need to innovate, and we need to think differently, always using customers’ needs to drive the way we create new technologies.”

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