Fenix Group, a private VA based technology firm, has partnered with Martin UAV, a Texas-based manufacturer of rugged utility drones, to launch the world’s first drone capable of providing fully functional 4G cell phone service – or flying cell phone towers.
The feat may be a world’s first. The company sees huge potential for government and industry with the flying cell phone tower, weighing in at under 55 pounds.
“When we first conceived the project, we knew we had to make it a priority,” said Dave Peterson, Fenix Group’s President & CEO.
“The market is just there for this right now and Martin UAV immediately understood that.”
“Beyond tactical closed networks for DoD at huge cost savings over what is currently being fielded, the marriage of unmanned systems with LTE core networks is representative of what Google was trying to do with their Loon program.”
“We beat Google at something, for very little money, and that feels great.”
While Fenix Group’s focus is on providing technology & direct support to DoD and partner forces worldwide, the utility for a flying cell phone tower – complete with subscriber database & billing functionality – means connectivity in the most remote parts of the world.
In addition to providing a coverage area on the ground, the payload is also able to stream encrypted video from the drone’s camera system to anyone on the network.
In the future, soldiers, search and rescue teams, and first responders will have access to drone video from their phones. The Fenix team even went so far as to enable Internet access so that command centers could access the feed from anywhere in the world.
“The technical challenges we faced to get all of the components to play nicely and not cause the aircraft to crash were very real,” stated Stefan Schaner, Fenix Group’s Chief Innovation Officer.
“We were on a shoestring budget to do this safely. Power constraints, FAA & FCC authorities, getting the overall payload weight down, and a myriad of problems we didn’t expect all had to be overcome.”
“Working with Martin allowed us to get the right aircraft into play with the right characteristics for this project to be successful.”
While Fenix Group plans to issue its first production units to DoD & first responders, the Virginia startup anticipates high demand from telecom providers, oil & gas companies, and crisis response units worldwide.