Data plans for drones are coming


Verizon has announced that it's planning to launch data plans for drones, a move that will enable users to stream drone-captured video directly to other devices by connecting to the Verizon network.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Verizon is planning to work with drone makers to connect the devices to its wireless network. The plans will start at 1GB for $25 a month and 10GB for $80 a month which is by no means inexpensive.

However, Verizon anticipates more commercial than individual interest, expecting industries like energy, agriculture, and nature and wildlife preservation to use the technology to monitor things like wildfires and oil pipelines.

At the moment, the majority of drones operate through a direct connection with their pilot's remote control which is then tethered to an internet-connected device to transmit live videos and images. If they had a data plan, drones could stream directly through the Verizon network and forego the need to transmit media via the remote control.

Drones flying high

Verizon sees this as the beginning of more interesting developments for wirelessly connected drones – if companies were to fit their drones with mobile chips, it would drastically improve their range and allow pilots to fly them remotely.

For companies like Amazon and Google that want to start integrating drone use into their delivery services, this could be particularly useful as it would mean the drones could all be piloted from one central control point with minimal human involvement.

At the moment, though, Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) regulations make this impossible as they require any drone to remain in line of sight of its pilot and not exceed heights of 400 feet.

That's not to say this will be the case forever, though – Alphabet is already testing beyond line-of-site trials at FAA approved sites. Should these test prove successful and result in a reduction in the severity of FAA regulations, Verizon's new drone business could really take off.

In the meantime, Verizon has said that it will also be using its Airborne LTE Operations (ALO) service to test the viability of using drones as aerial cell towers in order to strengthen its network coverage during emergencies.

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.