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Korea develops unmanned tiltrotor aircraft

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Published : 2011-11-30 21:12
Updated : 2011-11-30 22:41

The new unmanned tiltrotor aircraft unveiled by KARI. (KARI)
Korea on Wednesday unveiled its first unmanned tiltrotor aircraft, capable of vertical takeoff and landing as well as high-speed navigation.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute disclosed the new “smart” aircraft at the aerospace center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province.

The state-funded aerospace think tank is negotiating with government agencies for commercial use of the vehicle.

“We have just completed the research and development program, and are in talks with the ministries of defense, land and knowledge economy about the next step,” said Park Kyun-je, chief of KARI’s smart aerial vehicle development center.

“Our UAV can now fly at about a speed of 400 kph, and our aim is to raise it to 500.”

Most helicopters’ maximum speed is between 200 and 300 kph.

In addition to military use by the Navy and the Marines, KARI expects the aircraft to be useful for reconnaissance of coasts and islands, prevention and control of forest fires, transportation monitoring and atmospheric and environmental observation.

The tiltrotor aircraft could also be used in the future as a platform for personal air vehicles which enable door-to-door transportation without the use of runways, KARI said in a press release.

KARI seeks to export the new UAV. Companies in the U.S. and the Middle East are showing interest in working together with KARI for the smart UAV development.

The value of global demand for unmanned aerial vehicles is expected to more than double from $9 billion last year to $19 billion in 2020, according to the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense market consultant.

KARI is set to continue flight performance tests to check on sensors for collision-avoidance, maximum speed and flight duration by next year and is considering developing a manned version as well.

KARI has been working on the UAV development project for the past 10 years since 2002 with dozens of businesses, universities and research institutes.

The 20 participating companies include the Korea Aerospace Industries, LIG Nex1, Huneed Technologies, Youngpoong Electronics and several foreign firms such as EATI.

A tiltrotor combines a helicopter’s vertical lift capability with the speed and range of a plane by using rotors on rotating shafts attached to conventional wings.

Currently, the United States produces a tiltrotor ―- the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey ― the manned version of which is deployed by the U.S. Marines Corps. and was featured in the blockbuster film “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” A program to mass produce the unmanned tiltrotor was canceled in the early 2000s. 

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)

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