Behind the scenes – Mountain Rescue trial with University of York

Developed by the University of York Electronic Engineering department, a key element of the Mission Critical Communications trial with Swaledale Mountain Rescue team was to set up a 5G mobile network, as the area where the trial took place had little or no mobile coverage. This was delivered using a Non Stand Alone Defined Radio base station.

Initially developed for use on the University’s Helikite aerial platform, the base station was adapted to serve ground-based applications following a collaboration with Safenetics – the Mission Critical Communications lead partner. This means – from a commercial perspective – volunteer teams such as the Mountain Rescue team could be situated in a vehicle, giving the team a mobile hotspot.


Payload in back of MRT Landrover


The trial, which was part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Mobile Access North Yorkshire project, took place over two days, when Storm Eunice hit the Dales. However, this offered the perfect opportunity to test the technology, exploring how it worked in weather typical for a Mountain Rescue search and rescue activity. For the purpose of the trial the base station and antenna, which would usually be in the Mountain Rescue Landrover were placed in the farm building due to the high risk of call out of the Mountain Rescue team.

Using 4G/5G handsets with the correct SIMS the Mountain Rescue team and Safenetics connected to the base station, which was connected to an Internet ground terminal, which was providing the backhaul. These handsets were used to trial some of the latest technology, which would benefit Mountain Rescue teams such as telemetry devices that can monitor life, signs remotely as well as thermal imaging and tracking of dogs.

Whilst these trials took place with BBC Click, the team conducted range testing; successfully connecting 500m away from the location, with handsets, filmed received 2 to 3 bars of signal strength.

Following this successful trial as well as the Helikite trial held at the Tupgill Estate, the next steps for the University of York team are:

  • Expanding our capability by developing separate kits for ground and Helikite use
  • Improving network performance, e.g., increasing the bandwidth, tuning the configuration to improve uplink signal quality, using higher gain LNA to improve uplink signal quality, tuning the modulation and coding schemes (MCS) to improve throughput. Adaptive MCS for 5G cell maybe included by open source SRSRAN in future releases.
  • Another range test to properly identify the cell coverage

Watch the BBC Click episode.

Find out more about the work of the University of York at the 5G Showcase event being held on 22nd and 23rd March in Birmingham, where the team will also be live streaming in from Coverdale to showcase the technology which was trialled as part of the Mission Critical Communications use case.