• Virgin Media O2 is working with the Warwickshire Search and Rescue team on a pioneering project that is set to save lives
  • The operator has built a mobile base station small enough to be flown on a drone, bringing reliable mobile signal to the most remote areas and helping to assist with rescue missions
  • The Warwickshire Search and Rescue team, a 24/7 volunteer force set up to assist the police searching for vulnerable missing people, responded to 65 callouts in 2022 and has already seen a further 65 in 2023 so far
  • With 170,000 people reported missing in the UK every year, technology has the potential to help rescue teams across the country on their missions to find missing people

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 trial the new technology.

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.

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. The drone, which can be rapidly deployed in remote areas by the search and rescue team, 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 easily locate and save those in danger.

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% from 2020, and has already seen a further 65 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 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. It is further evidence of the positive impact improved connectivity can have upon our society.”

David Owens, Head of Technical Trials at Virgin Media O2 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. We’re enormously proud that our connectivity will be able to help these teams to save lives.”

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. 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. It means we will always be connected, ensuring seamless communication and efficient coordination throughout our missions. As a result of this, we will connect the unreachable, save lives, and inspire a new era of technological possibilities.”



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