Virgin Media develops 5G drone for search and rescue missions

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Virgin Media O2 has developed a 5G-connected drone that’s designed to bolster communication for search and rescue teams.

The Warwickshire Search and Rescue team is the first to trial the 5G drone. In vast and remote terrains, establishing reliable communication proves to be a challenge for rescue teams—hindering their ability to execute time-critical missions effectively.

Virgin Media O2’s 5G Technical Trials team devised a solution that leverages a network of low-earth orbit satellites and is compact enough to be integrated into a drone. This drone – swiftly deployable by search and rescue teams – operates as a flying mobile phone mast, delivering seamless 5G connectivity regardless of the mission’s location.

David Owens, Head of Technical Trials at Virgin Media O2, commented: “This project is a further example of how fresh-thinking and 5G technologies can be combined to provide real societal benefits.

“The solution has the potential to transform how search and rescue teams operate and respond to life-threatening situations, enabling them to make faster and more decisive decisions. We’re enormously proud that our connectivity will be able to help these teams to save lives.”

The Warwickshire Search and Rescue team, an operational Lowland Rescue unit, plays a pivotal role in assisting the police in locating vulnerable missing persons. The demand for their services has surged, with 65 callouts in 2022—a 45 percent increase from 2020, and a further 65 callouts recorded in 2023 to date.

Steve Brown, Trustee and Search Technician at Warwickshire Search and Rescue, commented: “With more and more callouts each year, this drone with mobile connectivity is a powerful tool for our team to understand and assess a situation immediately, saving crucial time in life-threatening situations.

“It means we will always be connected, ensuring seamless communication and efficient coordination throughout our missions. As a result of this, we will connect the unreachable, save lives, and inspire a new era of technological possibilities.”

With someone reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK, rescue teams face the challenge of locating individuals swiftly.

Councillor Andy Crump, Portfolio Holder for Fire & Rescue and Community Safety at Warwickshire County Council, said: “The Warwickshire Search and Rescue team do such vital work for our local community by assisting the police in searching for missing people. 

“This new solution from Virgin Media O2 will help the team on these missions and ultimately save many lives. It is further evidence of the positive impact improved connectivity can have upon our society.”

See also: Globalstar expands IoT asset tracking solutions with GSatSolar

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