Virgin Media O2 5G drone trials to help emergency services at national parks

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
2 November 2022

Visits to the UK’s national parks are on the rise – and have been since the pandemic. Virgin Media O2 is helping to make them safer, with trials of 4G and 5G connected drone technology that will help emergency services and Mountain Rescue volunteers at Snowdonia.

The company is providing vital 4G and 5G connectivity to the Snowdonia area via the ‘Dragon’ Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS or drone) provided by Snowdonia Aerospace. The drone will act as an airborne network, should visitors need mobile connectivity for assistance purposes. It will also help first responders to access essential information, assess situations at speed and easily locate and save those who are in danger. The trials are exploring how connectivity can provide key support to emergency services so they can respond quicker, more decisively and more efficiently to hikers stranded in the park, as well as cutting costs and being more environmentally friendly.


Emergency services have had to deal with a record number of callouts to national parks across England and Wales this year. In rural areas, such as Snowdonia, emergency services are often reliant on receiving 999 calls. However, mobile connections can be interrupted by the extreme geographical landscape, which impacts emergency calls and the reliability of geographical location data, which is essential for finding those who are lost or in need of urgent help.

The logistics of search and rescue are extremely difficult as teams look to narrow the search area when they are called out across vast and remote landscapes. The trial will look to solve these challenges by providing a standalone airborne 5G NR (New Radio) network, which will enable the delivery of coverage to remote areas and retain geographical location data for calls. It will also mean mountain rescue teams can use next-gen connectivity that will enable picture sharing and video calling that could even help teams guide people back to safety, without needing to send out a team of volunteers.

A woman hiking in Snowdonia

Paul Terry, a Police Sergeant in the North Wales Police Drone Unit and a Mountain Rescue volunteer, said: “Mountain Rescue is a volunteer service and there is only so much resource we have available to us. With more and more people visiting Snowdonia each year, a drone with mobile connectivity would be a powerful tool for the search and rescue teams to understand and assess a situation immediately, saving crucial time in life-threatening situations.”

Kirsty Bright, director of network innovation and transformation at Virgin Media O2, added: “This project is a further example of how 5G technologies can provide real societal benefits for people around the UK, wherever they are. This trial could transform how emergency services operate and react to life-threatening situations, and make people feel safer while enjoying national parks. We’ve already run our first successful test flights at the Llanbedr airport with the Snowdonia Aerospace team and look forward to demonstrating how it can support mountain rescue teams across Snowdonia. Trials like this are all part of our wider commitment to upgrading the UK and showing the power of 5G connectivity.”

Visit Virgin Media O2 to find out more.