People have often wondered how long it will be before we are able to access LTE networks during flights not only to stay connected to the web, but also to make calls or send files over high-speed networks. While we're not quite there yet, Verizon has made a promising start by developing and testing in-flight LTE operations for the better part of the last two years. The telecommunications giant today announced its Airborne LTE Operations (ALO) initiative which will aim at driving in-flight wireless connectivity through connected devices in the coming years. To begin with, LTE connectivity will be implemented in a gradual scale to unmanned UAVs to monitor events like floods, wildfires and conditions of pipelines and high voltage lines in real time.
As part of its ALO initiative, Verizon is putting in place a certification process for hi-tech Internet of Things devices that can be placed inside manned and unmanned aerial vehicles and which can drive connectivity using Verizon's LTE network. At the same time, Verizon's ThingSpace IoT platform will be integrated with a new suite of services from next year, and these services will enable developers to create apps which will work with ALO and let users make use of in-flight LTE connectivity for various purposes. The ThingSpace platform is quite significant as it serves as a hub for Verizon's IoT services and developers who create applications around these services. Back in September, Verizon announced that Sensity Systems, a company which specializes in offering connected LED lights in cities, will become part of ThingSpace and allow Verizon to expand its presence in the connected devices market. Verizon is also in the process of acquiring other Internet of Things firms this year like GPS-based Fleetmatics and Telogis, thus creating a wide gap between itself and other networks as fat as IoT capabilities are concerned.
As far as Airborne LTE Operations are concerned, Verizon is presently collaborating with American Aerospace Technologies Inc. (AATI) and Sierra Wireless to fine-tune and measure connectivity between aerial vehicles and its ground-based LTE network. Subject to federal regulations, once it certifies certain devices as compatible with ALO, it will take on call on whether to install them directly on aerial vehicles or to place them in low-altitude flying vehicles. This process may take the better part of a year to be completed and depends on how soon Verizon will be able to certify new devices for aerial operations. The success of such initial stages of ALO may pave the way for connected devices to be installed in long range passenger and military aircrafts to pin-point their location and to expedite disaster management in unforeseen circumstances.