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Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Israel’s RT Aerostat Systems are launching a new aerostat-mounted cellular geolocation system at the DSEI Japan defence exhibition, which is taking place in Tokyo from 15 to 17 March 2023.

Called the Skystar ResQCell, the system is designed to enable the rapid location of missing and trapped people following any disaster. It incorporates the ResQCell cellular geolocation system developed by IAI’s ELTA Systems subsidiary, which includes an active international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) catcher and three low SWaP (size, weight, and power) passive sensors that are mounted on three RT mini-tactical Skystar 110 aerostat systems. A ground control application is also part of the system.

The solution uses the multi-band IMSI catcher to trigger idle cellular phones and an advanced direction-finding/geolocation system to detect and locate the mobile signals. The information is then processed and transmitted to a ground unit, which calculates and displays a 3D geolocation of the cellphone.

An illustration of the Skystar ResQCell system being deployed. (Image: ELTA/RT)

According to IAI the system can be carried by a team of two in backpacks and can be deployed within 10 minutes, making it easily and quickly deployable in areas affected by disasters where the local infrastructure has been destroyed and where a rapid response is required to find survivors. The Skystar 110 aerostats, which are also designed to carry gyro-stabilised electro-optical payloads, can be flown at up to 1,500 ft (457 m).

IAI states that the cellular geolocation system is accurate to within a few metres, does not require the use of local mobile networks, and supports all types of cellular networks.

“This lifesaving solution … revolutionises disaster response and delivers a detailed picture of missing or trapped people and rescue teams by accurately geolocating their cellular phones. Adi Dulberg, Vice President and General Manager of IAI/ELTA’s Intelligence, Communications and Electronic Warfare Division, was quoted as saying in an IAI press release. “Because time is a significant component when a disaster occurs, the system can be deployed in minutes and provide rescue forces with a long-endurance, highly effective and easy-to-use lifesaving solution.”

Rami Shmueli, CEO of RT Aerostat Systems, was quoted as saying, “Partnering with IAI/ELTA has helped us bring a precision life-saving system to the emergency services sector. … The integration of our systems has created an advanced solution that enables situational awareness, rapid response, and access to any disaster area. We believe this solution will be able to greatly assist search-and-rescue teams around the world.”

Peter Felstead