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KARI, Korean Air to build unmanned tiltrotor

Korean Air and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute plan to develop the world’s first small-scale unmanned tiltrotor aircraft by 2013, the two companies announced Monday.

The envisioned aircraft, dubbed “TR-6X,” will be about 60 percent the size of the first unmanned aerial vehicle unveiled in November by the state-run aerospace think tank, which flies like a plane but tilts its rotors to take off and land vertically like a helicopter. The government pumped 87.2 billion won ($77.7 million) into the project from 2002.

The smaller tiltrotor will also be able to fly more than five hours at an altitude of 3 kilometers or above with a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour.

Under the plan, KARI will transfer related technologies to Korean Air, and the flag carrier will bankroll the program until June 2013. Terms of the agreement were not revealed.

Boeing and Bell Helicopter’s manned tiltrotor, the V-22 Osprey, is currently deployed in U.S. military operations, but its unmanned model has yet to enter service.

“The TR-6X will have great versatility as it can be adopted not only for military use but also in a wide range of civil applications,” Korean Air said in a statement.