Pop-Up 5G Drones to Transform Mountain Search and Rescue

17 May 2024

Published in: Cohort Successes

A team of mobile connectivity and drone specialists have demonstrated the use of flying 5G drones as a moving connectivity bubble which could transform mountain search and rescue missions.

The demonstrations, which took place near Tarfside in Angus, Scotland, brought together JET Connectivity’s (BetaDen Cohort 4.0) pop-up 5G technology with an aerial drone to form a self-deploying 5G network.

Mountain search and rescue is traditionally reliant on teams hiking the mountains and glens or the assistance of helicopters for wider area searches. These two options are either time consuming – potentially disastrous in an emergency – or expensive.

Hillside and mountain locations also often suffer from poor phone signal, so rescue teams cannot communicate or share location or video information while working to save lives.

The challenges seen in emergency situations across the world can be revolutionised with the use of a pop-up, moving, mobile network and visual search platform.

The 5G drone network can be set up in minutes in an emergency. One or multiple drones will search a wide area, whilst streaming video and infrared footage back to the controller over the 5G network which has been created by the drones. 

JET Connectivity’s 5G base station in a box is lightweight and low power, so can be carried by the drone and either deployed remotely on the ground for fixed coverage throughout the mission or kept in flight to provide a moving bubble of connectivity.

The demonstration at Tarfside concluded a research and development pathfinder project as part of the Tay5G Project under the Tay Cities Region Deal. Funded by the Scottish Government, the project has been led by JET Connectivity, supported by DTLX who provided the drone approvals and flights, as well as Abertay University and Scotland 5G Centre.

A second demonstration is planned in June for an offshore beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone demonstration, utilising the pop-up 5G capability at sea as a floating network. This will enable increased safety and less risk to people working offshore by transforming skilled jobs to the safety of a control room with remote surveying, inspections and maintenance.  

James Thomas, CEO at JET Connectivity, said: “Its has been fantastic to see the integration of our 5G technology in an aerial drone coming to life. Seeing the difference this could make to search and rescue missions is really exciting, and I hope it can be used to make the work of the fantastic search and rescue teams easier as they continue to save lives. Providing connectivity for safety has always been at the heart of JET’s vision, and I am so excited to see this come to life in new ways with the fantastic work of our engineering and networks teams. There are so many other opportunities to use this solution now the technology has been developed, such as disaster recovery, and we are delighted to be a part of making a difference.”

Scottish Government Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government is providing £2 million towards innovative 5G trials such as the search and rescue drones project as part of the Tay Cities Region Deal. Our funding is enabling businesses and academia to explore the benefits of new technology for communities across Scotland, supported by our Scotland 5G Centre. this project is a great example of how 5G connectivity can be used to support the emergency services in rural areas and potentially save lives.” 

Richard Stark, Director at DTLX said: “With the UK’s drone industry starting to ramp up on the back of several government initiatives, it has been really exciting to work with our sub-contractor, the Edinburgh Drone Company, to build a heavy lift drone and fascinating to learn about the intricacies of 5G technology. Hopefully this project will act as a launchpad for further development to support both the mountain rescue as well as other public and commercial services in remote locations where the ability to communicate large amounts of data, almost instantaneously, is important.”

DR Laith Al-Jobouri of Abertay University’s School of Design and Informatics said: “This project is a powerful example of what can be achieved when academia and industry work together to address real world problems. There’s huge potential here, not just to advance the UK’s approach to search and rescue situations, but also apply the same or similar technology to a wide range of other sectors.”

Kirsty Scott, Senior Business Engagement Manager at The Scotland 5G Centre said: “The Centre is excited to contribute technically to support this project, and also arrange access to our 5G test bed. Using mobile 5G private networks, we’re demonstrating the endless possibilities and flexibility of this technology, without being bound by geography. This project exemplifies how 5G can be used to bring network coverage to remote areas, enhancing mountain rescue operations by enabling drone flights. It’s a game-changer for search and rescue teams, revolutionizing mountain rescue efforts as we know them. We look forward to helping support the wider adoption of this solution.”

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