FirstNet’s first blimp is operational and aiding first responders over Cameron Parish, LA in the aftermath to Hurricane Laura, according to AT&T.
The blimp – technically referred to as an aerostat – can fly as high as 1,500 feet and reduces the need for ground-based assets such as satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs), according to Jason Porter, the Senior Vice President for the FirstNet at AT&T.
“FirstNet One is a part of our dedicated fleet of more than 76 deployable network assets – available at no additional charge to public safety agencies on FirstNet,” Porter said in the post. “These assets provide first responders with similar capabilities and connectivity as a cell tower. And no other wireless network provider has deployable network assets dedicated solely and exclusively to public safety, backed by the oversight of the First Responder Network Authority, to help ensure public safety has connectivity when and where they need it.”
FirstNet One was introduced last December. The 55-foot blimp at the time was the 76th deployable network asset belonging to the FirstNet fleet. The blimp can stay aloft for up to two weeks. It’s tethered to a trailer for either satellite or wireline backhaul. It provides double the coverage area of other assets, including SatCOLTs or flying Cells on Wings (COWs) drones.
AT&T has been busy with FirstNet initiatives this year. In July, FirstNet said that it is rolling out spectrum in Band 14 for first responders on existing cell sites in more than 700 markets nationwide. FirstNet also said at the time said it is launching new cell sites to expand rural and cellular coverage.
In June, the FirstNet board authorized an initial $200 million investment to update the network from LTE to 5G. The multi-phase initiative will begin with the FirstNet network core, according to AT&T.