KT's unmanned lifesaving airship to help UNICEF monitor illegal child labor in Africa

By Park Sae-jin Posted : November 5, 2019, 15:09 Updated : November 5, 2019, 15:09

[Courtesy of KT]

SEOUL -- A helium-filled unmanned airship equipped with various sensors, cameras and electronic devices, developed by South Korean telecom company KT, will patrol the skies of Ghana to create precise digital maps and monitor artificial intelligence-based deep learning data for signs of illegal child labor.

KT said in a statement on Tuesday that the company has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Korean branch of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to provide "Skyship", an unmanned lifesaving airship, to monitor signs of illegal child labor in Ghana in western Africa.

Skyship will be used to create digital maps through topographical analysis next year in Ghana and analyze AI deep-learning data. "The agreement between KT and UNICEF has a significant meaning as it is the first case in which KT's ICT technologies, such as big data and drones, contribute to the child protection sector," KT's big data business unit head Yoon Hye-jung was quoted as saying.

Welfare organizations such as UNICEF and many governments are trying to eliminate illegal forms of child labor in Ghana. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the worst forms of child labor mainly take place in fishing and cocoa harvesting where children as young as four years old are trafficked to work at farms with no proper food or medication.

The remote-controlled airship carrying sensors and cameras capable of taking high-definition (HD) images is part of "Skyship Platform", KT's mobile disaster command center platform. The blimp-shaped drone mothership is capable of flying at a maximum speed of 80 kilometers (49 miles) per hour and carrying parcels such as medicines to hard-to-reach places.

The Skyship disaster command platform, showcased in June 2018, consists of a command truck carrying rescue robots and a helium-filled floating mothership carrying drones. The mothership is equipped with a variety of sensors including a high-definition thermal imaging camera and a communication module which can detect smartphone signal.

Once the mothership detects a smartphone signal, it dispatches drones to find the exact whereabouts of survivors. When a robot reaches them, it will shoot smoke flares to alert lifesavers who can give orders through speakers installed in the robot. Operators stationed inside the command truck are automatically notified of their information such as their names, blood types and ages.

Using AR glasses, rescuers can provide visual images and communication with the control tower and trauma centers. The Skyship blimp can travel as far as 100 kilometers from its command truck for six hours. Skyship was designed to use a super-fast 5G connection to establish a secure network capable of transferring large-sized data including real-time HD video feeds.
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