BT is considering how using drones to deliver urgent parts for its network, particularly in rural areas in the UK will benefit its customers, its financial customer innovation lead said this morning.

The network provider is joining in on the corporate fascination with unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs), like Network Rail, Amazon, Shell and EasyJet amongst others, who are using drones to either deliver goods or monitor health and safety in ways humans couldn’t.

shell drone credit shell
Shell already uses drones to check dangerous oil rig infrastructure Credit: Shell

Matthew Key, Head of Customer Innovation, Global Banking and Financial Markets wrote in a blog post: “We could use drones to deliver urgent parts for our network. This would be especially useful for rural, hard-to-reach areas across the UK. It would be a much faster way to get things to where they need to be and improve the customer experience.

If your network is damaged by a flood, or another natural disaster, drones could fly over and assess what needs to be done — and we could get you back online as quickly as possible.

The firm could use drones to offer customers temporary broadband access if there is a disruption to the network- an idea already tested by Facebook, which hopes the technology will provide hard-to-reach communities in developing countries with internet access as part of its charitable project internet.org.

“They could transmit mobile signals too, if needed. In the future, we could also help customers tackle logistical, agricultural and energy challenges with their drone deployments”, BT’s Key added.

“Drones are such a new technology that we probably haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what they can do. Computers were created to solve maths problems, now we use them to connect people across the globe. With a little creativity, drones could change the world.”

But before BT prepares a fleet of drones, there are significant hurdles to overcome, Key said. While technological innovation is driving down the weight of drones and improved GPS paving the way - regulation is still an issue.

Key said: “Drones can do incredible things, but they’re just not allowed to. A good example is that drones in the UK need to be within sight of the operator, so he or she can be seen to have control — a regulation which immediately cuts out many ambitious uses for the drone.

“Thankfully, as the industry matures (providing the operator is proven responsible), these rules are expected to be relaxed and drones will be allowed to reach their full potential.”

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