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Verizon Communications Inc.’s (NYSE:VZC) announcement Thursday that it planned to begin working with drone makers to connect the aircraft to Verizon’s wireless network.

In an interview the company said 1 gig data plans would start at $25 and 10 gig plans would go for $80. Yes, Verizon is that far along in the process.


Streaming First

Initially plans will allow drones to connect to the Internet during flight and stream pictures, video and other data back to Earth.

The idea is that companies that use drones to inspect oil pipelines, farm fields, wildfires and so forth could send visual images immediately anywhere on the planet.

Regulations Are Still Restrictive

That’s as far as it will go for now since Federal Aviation Administration regulations require a drone operator to remain in direct sight of the drone. In addition, devices can’t be flown higher than 400 feet without special permission.

All that will keep Verizon from moving on to the next logical step – until the inevitable happens and regulations change and/or are relaxed. Once that happens, Katy bar the door!

A Future Imagined

This is where Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZND) comes in. Being able to stream over the Internet via cell towers exponentially increases the practical ability to put “eyes in the sky” so operators could be in a remote location – just like with the military – to deliver packages on a cost-effective basis.

While that kind of operation is likely years away, Verizon’s involvement establishes a potential connection to an already existing network for Amazon and others to use.

Ramping Up Discussion

Verizon hopes its new operation will, as David McCarley, a technology fellow at Verizon put it, “… enable the sort of data collection that will be necessary for regulators to make these decisions and … move the discussion from the white board to the tarmac.”

The ability to provide data on how companies can use Verizon services in the real world is something the company hopes will inform the discussion.

Emergency Operations

That’s not all. Verizon said it plans to use drones as flying cell towers during emergencies when networks are overloaded or down. The company already has trucks that perform that function but the ability to fly a drone to a remote location expands the sweep and speed of the repair process.

The technology has been under study by Verizon for two years. Now the company finally feels it is ready for publicity and more widespread adoption.

Others Expected To Climb Onboard

Amazon won’t be the only tech company interested in Verizon’s new platform. Others that have been mentioned include United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE:UPSC), Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGC) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMTC).

Others will be expected to join in once the technology is approved and the big players have worked out all the kinks and problems.


New Supply Chain Link Forged

Ultimately it’s all about forging a new link in the supply chain. Drones could be used to pre-scout areas and supply instant traffic updates or even be launched from the roof of a semi-truck to help individual drivers plan time-saving alternate routes inside a city or congested area.

The recent addition of ground-based and ocean-based drones could eventually impact all areas of the supply chain in ways that can’t even be imagined right now.

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