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KT unveils 5G aerial search-and-rescue platform

By on 9 July, 2018

An aerial view of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in Canada, 2013. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Korean telecommunications provider KT has released an ambitious disaster management platform, featuring an airship-based communications platform to direct UAVs and robots searching for disaster survivors.

South Korea’s largest telecommunications provider demonstrated the platform in action in a disaster simulation scenario in conjunction with the with Ajou University Hospital’s trauma center in Gyeonggi province.

Simulating a remote search-and-rescue operation, the Skyship platform located a survivor, and was reached by a rescue squad wearing AR eyewear, who were able to share and communication with a surgeon in the trauma centre, who could check the patient’s vital signs remotely via the LTE network.

The announcement comes ahead of KT’s rollout of a 5G wireless network across South Korea, scheduled for March 2019.

The platform is based around the Skyship, an aircraft that KT says combines elements of an airship and a drone.

It consists of an enclosure containing helium, a module containing core hardware items such as propellants, cameras, network modules and drones; and a signal-scanning unit called Skyscan, which detects smartphone signals and synchronises them with mobile carriers’ customer database to identify survivors’ personal information, such as names and ages.

A visual representation of the Skyship disaster response platform. Image provided by KT Corporation.

The remaining components of the platform are the Skyship C3 (Command, Control, Communication) station, a mobile ground control station; and the Skyship drone and Skyship robot, drones and robots and installed in the Skyship aircraft.

The signal scanning module can search for the presence of survivors within a 50-metre radius, using a small LTE device to narrow the search area for first responders. When survivors are detected, drones are deployed to pinpoint their exact locations. Robots can then be dispatched on the ground to deliver emergency relief items, relay information to rescuers and take first-aid measures until rescuers arrive.

KT envisages Skyscan, the signal scanning component of the system, being integrated with national registration and medical databases in the future, aiming to expedite first-aid treatment by immediately providing survivors’ medical records to first responders – containing key information for survival, including blood types and pre-existing health conditions.

KT says it also plans to standardise hardware requirements for the Skyship pod unit, opening up the market for network modules, cameras and drones to third-party providers.

The Skyship project is intended to dovetail with KT’s forthcoming public safety LTE network, which is due to be complete in 2020. The firm says the high bandwidth of the network will allow rapid analysis of disaster scenarios through near-realtime streaming capabilities of 4k resolution video captured by drones.

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