AT&T and Intel Partner to Test Drones on Wireless Networks

February 22, 2016, 2:14 PM UTC
Inside The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show
The Lily Camera, a throw-and-shoot camera, is displayed during CES Unveiled at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. CES is expected to bring a range of announcements from major names in tech showcasing new developments in virtual reality, self-driving cars, drones, wearables, and the Internet of Things. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Telecommunications giant AT&T (T) announced on Monday that it will partner with chipmaker Intel (INTC) to test drones on its high-speed wireless network.

The point of the test, the companies said, is to see how the autonomous devices function at higher altitudes, where there is the potential for interference from airwaves related to video streaming and flights.

For AT&T, it’s the company’s latest bid on the so-called Internet of things, the term used to describe all of the objects that could be improved with a persistent Internet connection. With the U.S. wireless market saturated, AT&T and its peers—Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile—are looking further afield for growth. Part of that strategy includes connecting what has previously been disconnected, from cars to home appliances to factory equipment.

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Meanwhile Intel stands to benefit from the skyrocketing growth of drones, which require microprocessors just like smartphones and tablet computers. The market for unmanned aerial vehicles, a.k.a. drones, will total $91 billion by 2024, predicts the Teal Group. Much of that growth will be driven by military use, but a significant portion comes from commercial applications, from logistics to agriculture to construction.

The companies made the announcement during this week’s Mobile World Congress, an annual conference that is focused on the wireless electronics industry and held in Barcelona.

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