Starting next year, Verizon will be selling data plans for drones, the Wall Street Journal reports. But what seems semi-ridiculous at first glance may actually be a useful tool. In an announcement Thursday, Verizon says companies could use drones connected to its LTE wireless network to monitor things like wildfires and oil pipelines. Drones with data plans could send photos and stream videos directly back to devices on the ground while still in flight. According to CNET, Verizon has been working on data-enabled drones since 2014 and has been testing the system, known as Airborne LTE Operations (or ALO), around the US.
In addition to allowing transmission of images and data, a wireless network would allow drones to be piloted remotely. At the moment—due both to technological limitations, as well as federal regulations—commercial drones must stay within view of the pilot. A shift to remote piloting would enable things like Amazon's proposed delivery-by-drone service. Verizon says it will also use the technology to turn drones into mobile cell towers during emergencies. A test flight Thursday hoped to show how much area could be provided with wireless coverage from a drone, Fortune reports. Drone data plans are expected to cost between $25 and $80 per month depending on the size. (Read more drones stories.)