‘Game-changing’ search and rescue 5G drone technology takes to Angus skies – The Courier

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The remote Angus glens have staged a demonstration of 5G drones experts hope could transform search and rescue missions.

Mobile technology and drone specialists delivered the aerial display in the hills above Tarfside at the head of Glenesk.

And it showed how a 5G eye-in-the-sky ‘bubble’ can be created in a potentially lifesaving link for search teams.

The demonstration harnessed JET Connectivity’s pop-up technology with an aerial drone to form a self-deploying 5G network.

5g drone demonstration in Angus glens.
The capabilities of the drone technology were demonstrated in Glenesk. Image: Alan Richardson

Search and rescue traditionally relies on teams hiking into the mountains or helicopter assistance across wider area searches.

But those options are either time consuming – potentially disastrous in an emergency – or expensive.

And remote mountain locations also often suffer from poor phone signal.

It means rescue teams can struggle to communicate or share location and video information.

Revolutionary moving network

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

A 5G drone network can be set up in minutes in an emergency.

One or multiple drones will search a wide area, streaming video and infrared footage back to the controller over the 5G network created by the drones.

Glenesk demonstration of 5G drone connectivity technology.
Partners in the pathfinder project see the 5G drone ready for launch. Image: Alan Richardson

JET Connectivity’s 5G base station in a box is lightweight and low power.

It can be carried by the drone and deployed remotely on the ground for fixed coverage, or kept in flight to provide a moving bubble of connectivity.

Tay Cities Deal project

The Tarfside demo 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.

Abertay University and Scotland 5G Centre have also been involved in the programme.

Drone flying over the Angus glens.
Flying the drone over the hills above Tarfside. Image: Alan Richardson

A second demonstration is now planned in June for an offshore beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone demonstration.

It will utilise the same pop-up 5G capability at sea as a floating network.

Experts hope it will increase safety and reduce risk through remote surveying, inspections and maintenance.

JET Connectivity CEO James Thomas said: “It 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.

Eye in the sky technology for mountain rescue missions.
The 5G technology could be used to locate casualties more quickly in remote areas. Image: Alan Richardson

“There are so many other opportunities to use this solution now the technology has been developed, such as disaster recovery. 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.

“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.”

Drone technology has already been piloted in an Angus medical delivery scheme.

Launchpad for further development

DTLX director Richard Stark added: “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.”

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.

5G drone flight in the Angus glens.
Drone experts prepare for launch. Image: Alan Richardson

“There’s huge potential here, not just to advance the UK’s approach to search and rescue situations, but also to apply the same or similar technology to a wide range of other sectors.”

And Kirsty Scott of the Scotland 5G Centre said it offered “endless possibilities”.

“It’s a game-changer for search and rescue teams, revolutionising mountain rescue efforts as we know them.

“We look forward to helping support the wider adoption of this solution.”

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