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Virgin Media 02 partners with Snowdonia Aerospace and trials 5G drones to protect visitors across UK national parks

Cynera Rodricks
October 27, 2022

The trial explores how connectivity can provide key support to emergency services so they can respond quickly, decisively and efficiently to hikers stranded within the park

Virgin Media O2 has announced plans to trial 4G and 5G connected drone technology with Snowdonia Aerospace Centre to answer distress calls from visitors hiking at the national parks.

A new research by Virgin Media O2 found that 35 per cent of Brits were worried about getting lost while hiking and around 31pc feared being unable to contact anyone due to zero connectivity.

As a response to this research, The ‘Dragon’ Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS/drone) provided by Snowdonia Aerospace will act as an airbone network, if visitors need mobile connectivity for assistance purposes.

It also aims to give first responders access to essential information, assess situations at speed and easily locate and save those who are in danger.

The trial is exploring how connectivity can help emergency services to respond to distress calls quickly and efficiently.

The trial will solve these challenges by providing a standalone airborne 5G NR (New Radio) network, which will enable the delivery of coverage to remote areas and retain geographical location data for calls.

It will also enable mountain rescue teams to go beyond voice calls, with the next-gen connectivity enabling picture sharing and video calling that could even help teams guide people back to safety without needing to send out a team of volunteers.

Along with Virgin Media O2 and Snowdonia Aerospace Centre, the project also involves SwiftFlight Avionic, Wavemobile and the Welsh Government and the whole project has been funded by the innovative UK Future Flight Challenge and a Department for Transport Drone Technology Research and Innovation Grant.

Kirsty Bright, Director of Network Innovation and Transformation at Virgin Media O2 said: “This trial could transform how emergency services operate and react to life-threatening situations, and make people feel safer while enjoying national parks.

We’ve already run our first successful test flights at the Llanbedr airport with the Snowdonia Aerospace team and look forward to demonstrating how it can support mountain rescue teams across Snowdonia. Trials like this are all part of our wider commitment to upgrading the UK and showing the power of 5G connectivity.”



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