When Texas was earlier this year, and the state’s independent power grid failed, many people accessed the internet and got information about the situation as it developed. Climate change is making those types of previously once-in-a-lifetime weather events a more frequent occurrence, and it’s forcing carriers to adapt.
Verizon (Engadget’s parent company) introduced the Tactical Humanitarian Operations Response (THOR) vehicle on Tuesday. The carrier built THOR using a modified Ford F650 truck. The vehicle’s front has seats for a driver and five passengers, while the “command center” you see at the back has room for three individuals. THOR can bring 5G and satellite connectivity to an area where a natural disaster may have knocked network access out, or there wasn’t any connectivity in the first place.
Verizon envisions THOR assisting first-responders and the military “under nearly any conditions,” be that wildfires out in California or following a hurricane in Florida, as just some examples. The company developed the prototype with help from the Pentagon’s NavalX and the SoCal TechBridge. Outside of connecting first-responders and military personnel, it also comes with a tethered drone that can be used for search and rescue operations and collecting information on a disaster.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a US carrier trot out an initiative like this. In 2019, AT&T showed off a 55-foot aerostat the carrier said could float above disaster sites and provide wireless communication for first responders.