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Virgin Media O2 boffins develop flying 5G phone mast to save lives in remote areas.

Staff Reporter
December 11, 2023

Virgin Media O2 technical geniuses have developed 5G-connected drone that gets a signal from low-earth orbit satellites to help search and rescue teams in remote areas.

The Warwickshire Search and Rescue team is the first team to benefit from the new technology and is already using it on search 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, which is small enough to be flown on a drone.

With 170,000 people reported missing in the UK every year, the technology has the potential to help rescue teams across the country

The drone can be rapidly deployed in remote areas., It acts as an airborne mobile phone mast, providing those on-the-ground with 5G mobile connectivity no matter where their mission takes them. This allows the rescue team to access essential information, communicate with one another, assess situations at speed and locate and save those in danger. 

The service will help search and rescue teams establish reliable communication in the most remote areas, helping them to protect lives. With 170,000 people reported missing in the UK every year, the technology has the potential to help rescue teams across the country on their missions to find missing peop

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. 

Warwickshire Search and Rescue is an operational Lowland Rescue team set up to assist the police with searches for vulnerable missing persons within Warwickshire and beyond. The team responded to 65 callouts in 2022, up 45 per cent from 2020, and has already seen a further 64 callouts in 2023 so far. Across the UK, someone is reported missing every 90 seconds and while many soon return home to family and friends, some do not – often because they suffer from a form or dementia or are at risk of harming themselves. 

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 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.”

5G connected drone acts as fyng 5G cell site in remote areas not served by traditional mobile networks. Technical Trials).

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

Steve Brown, Trustee and Search Technician at Warwickshire Search and Rescue said “Our team is made up volunteers and there is only so much resource available to us. 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 are always connected, ensuring seamless communication and efficient coordination throughout our missions. As a result of this, we have connected the unreachable, saved lives, and inspired a new era of technological possibilities.”

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