A vast majority of the world’s population, over 5 billion people now own mobile phones. Mobile phones are ubiquitous in our daily lives, extending far beyond simple phone calls and texts. Today’s advanced mobile phones are used for storing files and pictures, playing music and games, viewing websites and videos, recording videos, making purchases, navigation, etc.
Cyber professionals constantly warn us of the cyber dangers inherent in mobile phones, such as data leakage, spyware, unsecured Wi-Fi, location tracking and a myriad of other threats. However, mobile phones are useful for more than keeping us connected to friends and loved ones and staving off boredom in a doctor’s office waiting room – they can actually save lives in a disaster situation. Should you find yourself in a precarious situation such as being trapped without the ability to move, or if all the electricity and communication services are down, there is a solution that can be a lifesaver.
In the aftermath of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, the goal of the first responders is to determine how many people are trapped in the disaster area, so they can accurately locate them as quickly as possible, rescue them and get them medical attention.
When First Responders approach a disaster area, they are faced with several challenges. Survivors or wounded individuals may be dispersed within the area, hidden in unattainable locations, or under ruins. Rescue teams require capabilities for locating the survivors in three axes: surface, depth and elevation.
Other challenges rescue teams may come up against include fires, hazards, and the inability to communicate with survivors, which could be the result of their injuries or the cellular network being crashed or congested.
To overcome these challenges, there is a need for a tactical private cellular network with unique geolocation capabilities, which allows the rescue team to:
- Find the location of trapped or lost people by locating their cellular phones, even if the survivor is unable to use them
- Find and monitor, in real time, the location of the rescue team members and their proximity to risks and hazards
Create, in real-time, a “situation picture”, allowing rescuers to monitor, orchestrate, and coordinate the tactical actions and progress of all rescue teams involved
The RES-Q-CELL system, developed by IAI ELTA’s Cyber Division, is the solution to these problems. RES-Q-CELL is designed for the search and rescue of survivors trapped under ruins or in disaster areas by accurately geo-locating their cellular phones. The basic assumption is that most people carry their cellular devices on or close to their bodies. Locating cellular phones under ruins in a timely manner increases the probability of finding missing people and saving lives by getting survivors medical attention in the first few critical minutes. The Res-Q-Cell system activates idle cellular phones and locates them by using advanced Direction Finding (DF) and geolocation capabilities.
RES-Q-CELL is in use today by Israeli First Responders, as well as other customers across the globe. Most notably, during an underground parking building collapse incident on September 15th, 2016, the RES-Q-CELL system was deployed and successfully assisted the rescue teams in locating two victims under three layers of solid concrete. RES-Q-CELL has proven itself to be a life-saving system in actual operations.
ELTA is collaborating with TLC, a US based company focused on the development and deployment of commercial tactical cellular base stations and private cellular networks, under the framework of the BIRD Foundation, an Israel-US bilateral industrial R&D collaboration, to develop an enhanced version of a drone-mounted RES-Q-CELL which is more versatile and robust. This version is based on three main technologies. The first is a set of multiband “mock” cellular base stations (developed by TLC) that are configured to activate cellular phones located in the vicinity of the system. The second is a state-of-the-art Direction Finding (DF) sensor (developed by ELTA), capable of accurately measuring the direction of the cell phones’ transmission. The third is the system’s Management and Control application.
Upon arrival to a disaster area, RES-Q-CELL can be set up immediately, providing efficient information to the First Responders, increasing the likelihood of saving lives quickly. The system is drone mounted, self-contained, and does not require to be adapted to a particular type of vehicle. Operation of the system does not depend on any prior installation of dedicated racks, masts, antennas, etc. All accessories are included inside the compact tactical package.
The system’s algorithm detects and locates multiple cellular devices in a very short time. Targets are only required to transmit for a very short period of time for each DF measurement to be effective, so the mobile batteries should last until rescue teams reach the victim.
A critical task during a disaster or terrorist attack event is the Management and Control (M&C) of the first responder teams – Fire Fighters, Medical First Aid, Police, etc. The M&C application provides a central situation picture of all active cellular devices and displays their locations. The situation picture measures the scale of the disaster, quantifies the number of trapped people, and generates effective rescue plans defining priorities for the forces, thereby reducing the risks to the Search & Rescue teams.
The enhanced version of Res-Q-Cell is installed and operated on small tethered drones which enable extended area coverage and better accessibility. The drones are loaded with tactical carrying cases required for the field operation. The overall system operation requires several drones and accessories.
Drones can hover much closer to the disaster zone, so lower transmission power is required, and smaller antennas may be used. Since drones have flight time limitations due to batteries and can be a safety hazard, tethered drones are preferred to allow unlimited operational time as well as guaranteeing safety.
The use of drones with extended antennas allows operation near the actual disaster area, thereby reducing the required transmitting power and antenna size. After receiving mobile signals, enhanced algorithms are used for DF measuring and geolocation of targets. Instead of using multiple antennas in linear arrays, multiple drones with single or dual small antennas are activated.
The enhanced RES-Q-CELL system incorporates improved multi-channel (GSM, UMTS, LTE) compact cellular base stations (3GPP compatible) with special logic and algorithms that are capable of activating and communicating with idle cellular phones in any network worldwide (acting as Mobile Identifier – IMEI/IMSI Catcher) or page specific “targets”.
The “mock” base stations can provide emergency, ad-hoc, private, full capability, local UMTS or LTE cellular network in cases where the local infrastructure is damaged. These networks may be used by First Responders as a backup for the “First Net” or as an additional local network.
The RES-Q-CELL system provides First Responders with the ability to quickly search for and rescue survivors trapped under ruins or in disaster areas by accurately geo-locating their cellular phones. By locating their cellular phones RES-Q-CELL increases the probability of finding missing people and saving lives by getting survivors medical attention in the first few critical minutes. It has proven itself in real world operations and is available now to First Responders.