Utilizing Satellite-operated Drones for Mountain Rescue - When Terrestrial Communication Doesn't Work Updated in August 2019

The team consisting of Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation recently carried out an experiment to utilize satellite-operated drones to rescue climbers during summer mountaineering season. According to NEDO, the experiment was successful. The drone will enable rescue in mountainous areas with unstable communication.

Drones usually use terrestrial communication lines like LTE for mobile phones. Thus, satellite communication was necessary for mountainous areas unreachable by terrestrial communication networks. Because satellite communication devices were quite large, it was difficult to mount them on multicopter type drones.

Therefore, the team developed a smaller and lighter satellite communication device. By installing it on the drone, the team planned to utilize it for mountain rescue. The actual experiment took place during May 29-30 at the Mount Daisen* Disaster Rescue Training session hosted by the Tottori Police Headquarters. During the experiment, the rescue images filmed by the drone was sent to the ground rescue team via a satellite positioned at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers. The experiment proved successful in the search for climbers. *Mount Daisen is approx. 1,700 meters

A system called Compass Mountain Climbing Notification Network (developed by Infcam Corporation) was used in this experiment. In this system, a climber would register a hiking/ climbing notification and that information would be shared among family and police. Location of climbers would appear on the system screen to facilitate rescue.

Through the successful use of satellite drones in rescue missions, NEDO says that this method will contribute widely to police or fire fighting activities where terrestrial communication is not available.

Newly developed small satellite communication device (Provided by NEDO/Sky Perfect -JSAT)

Drone installed with the small satellite communication device (Provided by NEDO/Sky Perfect -JSAT)