KT uses tons of tech to find lost people

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KT uses tons of tech to find lost people


Left: Rescuers give emergency treatment to a person who pretends to be injured in the woods during a demonstration of KT’s latest disaster relief system using drones, robots and smart glasses in Gangwon on Monday. Right: KT’s airship, dubbed Skyship 2, is designed to stay as long as six hours in the air. [KT]

WONJU, Gangwon - Drones are being put to use in disaster relief, particularly to look for people lost in dangerous areas. Yet their critical weakness - they can only fly for 30 minutes - is keeping them from being fully involved.

Korea’s second largest mobile carrier, KT, is trying to overcome that shortcoming with a 10.5-meter (34.5 foot) airship that is the keystone of a disaster relief system unveiled Monday.

The system consists of the unmanned airship, a portable ground control center, a separate control and communication station, drones, robots and even smart glasses that can be used by rescuers to transmit real-time video to medical workers for advice on how to treat rescued injured people.

The new Skyship 2 can fly for six hours at 80 kilometers (49 miles) per hour speeds according to the company, powered by propellers underneath the ship, which is filled with helium.

The airship, co-developed with local partner Metis Make, narrows down a search perimeter to an area with a 50-meter radius based on Skyscan, which tracks mobile phone signals of a lost person as long as the phone is turned on. A high-resolution camera and thermal cameras are installed to search for a lost person.

In a demonstration Monday, Skyscan narrowed down a search zone in the vast woods in Gangwon. Staff using the control and communication station dispatched a drone from the airship to locate a person acting like he was lost. After the drone spotted the person, a self-driving robot and human rescuers started approaching the person.

The robot delivered a first-aid kit to the person while human rescuers put on KT’s so-called augmented reality glasses, which transmitted video of the scene to Ajou University Medical Center so a doctor could give advice on how to treat the victim.

“I thought a [telemedicine] system would be possible theoretically but this demonstration was better than I expected,” said Lee Guk-jong, a doctor at the Ajou University Medical Center who participated in the demonstration. “I think the application of such technology could have a big impact in [rescues].”

KT said that once the high-speed 5G network is commercialized next year, the disaster management system can even be upgraded. For instance, the system will be able to deliver ultra high-definition videos of the rescue scene faster to relevant authorities like 119 rescue centers and medical centers.

While the Skyship 2 is an upgraded version of the first Skyship introduced last year, the company plans to launch a 5G-based disaster management system by 2020 with Skyship 3, which will be able to fly for 12 hours and carry as many as eight drones. Skyship 2 carries two.

“The Skyship can travel about 100 kilometers away from the control and communication station, which means it can essentially travel anywhere in the country [unlike drones alone],” said Oh Seong-mok, president of network group at KT.

The Ministry of Interior and Safety wants to establish a public safety long term evolution (PS-LTE) network dedicated to disaster relief nationwide by 2025 starting with five cities - Sejong, Daejeon, North Chungcheong, South Chungcheong and Gangwon. All three Korean mobile carriers are trying to win a 1.7 trillion won ($1.5 billion) contract from the ministry order.

Oh expressed confidence that KT has a network infrastructure competitive enough to win the project.

“We have 680,000 kilometers of optical fiber cables installed nationwide and 80 percent of the cables are buried underground, which keeps the cables safe from disasters like explosions and fire,” Oh said. “Based on solid infrastructure, we have continued to develop various disaster management technologies and we hope to take a leading role in making a safer Korea.”

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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