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Virgin Media O2 trials 5G drone for remote search and rescue missions

Written by Wed 13 Dec 2023

Virgin Media O2 has developed a 5G connected drone to help search and rescue teams establish reliable communication in the most remote areas, helping them to protect lives. The Warwickshire Search and Rescue team is the first team to benefit from the new technology and is already using it on search missions. In rural areas, such as parts of Warwickshire, emergency services and rescue teams often struggle to establish reliable communication when working in the most remote areas not served by traditional mobile networks. This makes it extremely difficult for rescue teams and the police to stay connected on time-critical rescue missions. Pictured is Dr. David Owens (Head of Technical Trials).

Virgin Media O2 has developed a 5G-connected drone to help search and rescue teams on remote rescue missions.

The Warwickshire Search and Rescue team is the first team to trial this kind of technology to help save lives.

Virgin Media O2 highlighted the challenge faced by emergency services and rescue teams in establishing reliable communication in remote areas not covered by traditional mobile networks.

This lack of connectivity makes it difficult for rescue teams and the police to stay connected on time-critical rescue missions.

Virgin Media O2’s 5G Technical Trials team developed a solution that provides reliable 5G mobile connectivity to rescue teams using a network of low earth orbit satellites. This technology is small enough to be flown on a drone.

The drone acts as an airborne mobile phone mast to provide 5G mobile connectivity to those on the ground, no matter where their mission takes them.

“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,” said David Owens, Head of Technical Trials at Virgin Media O2.

The 5G-connected drones allow the rescue team to access essential information, communicate with one another, assess situations at speed, and easily locate and save those in danger.

Portfolio Holder for Fire and Rescue and Community Safety at Warwickshire County Council, Councillor Andy Crump, said this new solution is further evidence of the positive impact improved connectivity can have upon society.

“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,” said Crump.

Warwickshire Search and Rescue is an operational Lowland Rescue team tasked to assist the police with searches for vulnerable missing persons within Warwickshire and beyond.

The team responded to 65 callouts in 2022, up 45% from 2020, and has already seen a further 65 callouts in 2023.

“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,” said Steve Brown, Trustee and Search Technician at Warwickshire Search and Rescue.

Last year, in another bid to help save lives and improve efficiency, Virgin Media O2 turned on the first 5G-enabled hospital in the UK with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

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Written by Wed 13 Dec 2023

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