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Drones to create mobile signals for remote rescues

Drones will be used to create mobile phone networks to help rescues in remote parts of Wales.

The unmanned aircraft developed at the Snowdonia Aerospace Centre at Llanbedr, will have a 4G or 5G mast on-board.

Anyone needing to call 999 would be able to do so if the drones are close enough.

The drone can also fly above the scene of an incident to allow rescue teams and those in trouble to stay in touch.

The network created by the drone would not be accessible to the wider public so couldn’t be used by other phone users in the area.

“We’ve been developing this for about 18 months now and hope to be doing trials in the spring time of next year,” said Jeremy Howitt, a consultant at the Snowdonia Aerospace Centre, which plays a leading role in UK drone projects.

“I think people are very interested in how drones can be used, alongside conventional aviation and satellites, so there’s a lot of activity, a lot of research work, but we are not aware of anything that’s look specifically at this particular application.”

So far, £500,000 has been spent developing the idea with another £500,000 needed before the project can start.

The prototype drone can stay in the air for three hours but it is hoped the final version will have a much longer flight time.

Among those backing the idea are mobile phone firms Virgin Media O2.

“We have all experienced ‘not spots’ and bringing coverage to those ‘not spots’, especially for the emergency services and for people in distress, is really important,” David Owens of Virgin Media O2 said.

One of those looking forward to seeing the drone in action is Sgt Paul Terry of North Wales Police.

He works with the force’s own drone unit, as well as with the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team as a volunteer.

“From a rescue point of view, we often see situations where people rely on their mobile phones to report an incident, an accident or report that they are lost,” he said.

“But in the mountains of Snowdonia there are a lot of areas where there is poor or no network signal.

“That can be life-changing in a rescue situation.

“And if there’s a potential to provide greater coverage, and reliable coverage during an incident, what we can have is a two-way conversation between a casualty and a recue team to get better information in order to get better rescue resources and resolve an incident more quickly.” Yahoo! Finance

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