Virgin Media O2 has conducted a first of its kind trial in the UK with Fotokite, a Swiss company, which has been developing actively tethered drones since 2014. The drone allows first responders to quickly send a tethered drone up to 45m above a situation, enabling emergency on-site personnel – and teams based in other locations connected by a 5G network – to immediately assess what’s happened.
The trial, conducted at Millbrook Proving Ground, helps develop a greater understanding of how 5G connectivity can be used to aid emergency services at trauma scenes, and remote or difficult to reach locations.
The tethered Fotokite Sigma system was successfully tested to receive 5G network connectivity from its base station on the ground, to transfer real-time data to first responders at the location and local hospital teams via a smart tablet. Its ultra-reliable low latency, uninterrupted aerial monitoring, and quick set up time of two minutes (approximately 13 minutes faster than any traditional drones) ensures no time is lost in conducting situational analysis of a scene, potentially saving lives.
Available in three separate configurations, including a rooftop box, transport case and tray mount, the Fotokite can operate reliably in the harshest of conditions, day or night, while remaining elevated for as long as the mission requires. The technology is activated with just one button to launch and the same to land – straightforward to operate and can be flown with an A2 Certificate of Competence passed online, making it accessible to many in the UK.
Rob Searle, Head of 5G at Virgin Media O2, said, “This is an important piece of technology and a further example of how 5G technologies can provide societal benefits. We are relentlessly pursuing new 5G-enabled innovations that will make real differences to people’s lives, from smart cities to connected vehicles and our work with utilities companies to the NHS. This partnership with Fotokite is another example of this, and could transform how emergency services operate and react to life-threatening situations.
Chris McCall, CEO at Fotokite, said, “Safety-critical data sharing in public safety applications can make real impact when information is distributed quickly and reliably. Incident commanders and decision-makers have new capabilities when it comes to 5G-enabled technologies like the Fotokite Sigma, and we are excited to work with O2 in a joint mission to help those public safety teams save lives and stay safe.”
Martin Hunt, Medical Rescue Coordinator for the British Automobile Racing Club & 5G Technology Programme Manager at Virgin Media O2, said, “The use of drones for emergency responders is an increasingly valuable tool, as the rising number of applications and lower flying complexity make it quick and easy to manage. The Fotokite drone has both thermal imaging and RGB video camera capabilities, as well as the ability to fly for extended times in all weather conditions, providing crucial situational information and data for emergency teams. Being able to stream live feeds via a 5G network from the operational ‘hot zone’ of a major incident back to offsite strategic teams enables instant feedback and decision-making that could save lives.”