It’s surprising more people aren’t excited about 5G given its potential. Although more than half of global consumers expect it to deliver faster mobile networks, only a quarter think the next generation cellular network technology will lead to innovative new services.

So, a project in South Korea that aims to use a 5G-connected airship to help transform search and rescue missions may go some way to convince doubters that the technology could change the world.

The Skyship carries drones, robots and cameras.
Image: KT Corp

Roving robots

The Skyship project, created by South Korean telecom giant KT Corp, brings science fiction to life. Although autonomous drones have already been developed for search and rescue work, this is the first project to use a flying mothership to deploy and control them.

The unmanned 5G-controlled Skyship can carry up to eight drones that use high-definition cameras and thermal imaging to search for signs of life in disaster zones. A prototype is currently in the testing phase, but the Skyship has yet to be used in a real-life rescue.

Skyship's drones can be flown up to 100 kilometres away from a control centre, 20 times further than conventional models. The latest version of the airship can stay in the air for up to 11 hours.

Image: KT Corp

Once survivors have been located, the airship can deploy robots to seek out any injured people. In addition to delivering first aid, the robots can create a live link between casualties and emergency medics through on-board cameras.

The airship’s robots search for casualties and connect them to medics via video.
Image: KT Corp

Protecting rescue teams

Skyship can also act as an airborne control centre for human rescuers. Throughout a given operation, it can create a 360-degree live security zone to protect rescue teams from intruders who may pose a threat.

The project was demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain earlier this year. Delegates witnessed the Skyship being flown over the South Korean city of Busan from a virtual cockpit at the event.

KT Corp says it plans to put the airship into commercial production next year.