Swiss drone company Fotokite has announced a new partnership with Virgin Media O2 to test 5G-enabled, tethered drones for use with emergency services.

The simulated rescue trials, which VMO2 claimed are the first ever in the UK, saw the tethered Fotokite Sigma system successfully tested to receive 5G network connectivity from its base station on the ground and transfer real-time data to first responders at the location as well as local hospital teams via a smart tablet.

The test demonstrated how first responders could quickly send a tethered drone up to 45 meters above a situation, enabling emergency on-site personnel – and teams based in other locations connected by a 5G network – to immediately assess what happened.

Rob Searle, head of 5G at VMO2, said: “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.”

According to VM02, the trial, which was conducted at Utac’s Millbrook proving ground, will help develop a greater understanding of how 5G connectivity can be used to aid emergency services at trauma scenes and difficult to reach locations.

The technology is activated with a single button to launch and the same to land. It can be flown with an A2 Certificate of Competence passed online, which the companies claim makes it accessible to all emergency services in the UK.

Chris McCall, CEO at Fotokite, said: “Safety-critical data sharing in public safety applications can make a 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.”

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Author: Richard Hook