Verizon provides Hurricane Ian responders with cellular connectivity by way of drones

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Verizon is using a fleet of drones over southwest Florida to provide cellular connectivity to first responders working around the clock in search and rescue missions to find survivors who may be trapped inside one of the more than 400 buildings destroyed by Hurricane Ian.

Tethered drones that can fly for up to 1,000 hours are beaming down 4G and 5G coverage for an approximate radius of five to seven miles.

Cory Davis, National Director for Verizon Frontline’s Response Team and Public Safety Operations, told DailyMail.com that the cellular company has supported more than 50 first responder agencies with its resources that include over 100 assets.

He explained that along with the drones, Verizon is using satellites that beam down internet from low Earth orbit, generators hitched to trailers and recently sent a portable cell site on a barge to Sanibel Island, which has been completely cut off by the hurricane.

Ian hit Lee County, home to Fort Myers, the hardest and Verizon, which is calling the county ‘ground zero,’ is using the most assets to provide communications for first responders who have rescued hundreds of people since the monster storm made landfall last week.

Verizon Frontline's Response Team and Public Safety Operations team is using drones to provide first responders with cellular connectivity as they conduct search and rescue missions

Verizon Frontline’s Response Team and Public Safety Operations team is using drones to provide first responders with cellular connectivity as they conduct search and rescue missions  

The cellular company recently sent a portable cell site on a barge to Sanibel Island, which has been completely cut off by the hurricane

The cellular company recently sent a portable cell site on a barge to Sanibel Island, which has been completely cut off by the hurricane

‘For my team crisis response team – we support everyone, AT&T, T-Mobile,’ Davis said.

‘Assets, when broadcasted, pick up Verizon frontline phones, but they also broadcast WiFi so it doesn’t matter what network you are on.’

Hurricane Ian clocked in as a Category 4 when it made landfall in Fort Myers last Wednesday, which saw waters surge up to 14 feet in some parts of the area – and now about 90 percent of the beach is gone.

Kevin Guthrie, director of the state’s Division of Emergency Management, said on Friday morning that some 10,000 people were unaccounted for, Guthrie said, but many of them were likely in shelters or without electricity.

And about 2.7 million people are without power across the state of Florida.

Verizon is helping where it can, noting it has been working around the clock to ensure search and rescue teams have the ability to communicate with one another.

‘The 5G Ultra Wideband being deployed is using C-band spectrum,’ Verizon shared in a statement.

‘Verizon acquired an average of approximately in markets across the country, providing a huge superhighway for wireless data to travel on.

Lee County, where Fort Myers is located, is one of the top places on the company’s list when it comes to deploying assets.

Hurricane Ian clocked in as a Category 4 when it made landfall in Fort Myers last Wednesday, which saw waters surge up to 14 feet in some parts of the area - and now about 90 percent of the beach is gone

Hurricane Ian clocked in as a Category 4 when it made landfall in Fort Myers last Wednesday, which saw waters surge up to 14 feet in some parts of the area – and now about 90 percent of the beach is gone

Verizon is using its technologies to help first responders locate people who may be trapped inside demolished buildings

Verizon is using its technologies to help first responders locate people who may be trapped inside demolished buildings

‘This community is broken and it is going to take decades to recover,’ said Davis.

‘Lee and Charlotte counties were most impacted. They are considered ground zero because that is where the eye of the storm landed.’

‘We are putting a high intense focus on those counties, they need more resources than anyone else.’

On Sanibel Island, which was separated from the mainland when the bridge collapsed during Hurricane Ian, Verizon has launched a tethered drone outfitted with a cellular node (a flying cell site) that is providing cellular coverage from the air to support search and rescue teams and first responders on the ground.

The team also sent a portable cell site on a barge to the island to provide more coverage to first responders.

This technology allows for fast and easy installation of a cell site in a restricted space and in this case, a disaster site.

Verizon releases the different devices based on the area’s needs. If a bridge is down, the company will release drones to beam down connectivity or if roads are drivable, an asset on a trailer will be deployed.

The drones are attached to a tether and controlled by a ground operator

The drones are attached to a tether and controlled by a ground operator

Verizon is using satellites that beam down internet from low Earth orbit, generators hitched to trailers and satellite dishes connected to trailers to help improve communication

Verizon is using satellites that beam down internet from low Earth orbit, generators hitched to trailers and satellite dishes connected to trailers to help improve communication

Lee County, where Fort Myers is located, is one of the top places on the company's list when it comes to deploying assets

Lee County, where Fort Myers is located, is one of the top places on the company’s list when it comes to deploying assets

Verizon is not the only tech company using its innovations to help those in need in Florida, as AT&T launched a mobile hotspot aboard a ship to bring service to its customers on Sanibel Island

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said over the weekend that SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk agreed to provide the company’s satellite internet service, Starlink, for help in response to Hurricane Ian in areas of Southwest Florida still without connectivity.

‘We are working with Elon Musk and Starlink satellite. They are positioning those Starlink satellites to provide good coverage in Southwest Florida and other affected areas,’ DeSantis, a Republican, told reporters on Saturday.

‘We are expecting 120 additional large Starlink units to deploy to Southwest Florida.’

The death toll is at least 103 as of Tuesday and first responders are working around the clock to help those who may be stranded or injured.

Verizon told DailyMail.com it has been helping first responders in disaster zones for nearly 30 years

Verizon told DailyMail.com it has been helping first responders in disaster zones for nearly 30 years

The fatalities reported in Florida were mostly from drowning, but others suffered different fates from the storm’s tragic aftereffects. 

‘Our main focus is specifically first responders and have supported over 50 agencies in the area to date,’ Davis said.

‘[The agencies are] federal, state and local and they bring hundreds into an area at a time’

‘It looks like a nuclear bomb went off and a lot of people did not leave. We will be here as long as it takes.’

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