Korean Air has announced that it has successfully developed and tested an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) using local technology.
The UAV was developed with research funding from the ministry of commerce, industry and energy. It can stay up in the air for two-and-a-half hours, and has an operational radius of about 40 km. Less than five people can manage this remote-controlled plane, 97 per cent of whose equipment was made locally, the company said.
Korean Air, Korea's largest airline, has assembled UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopters and runs maintenance services for both civilian and military customers.
The company said the UAV took almost three years to produce, has a 26-X magnification zoom camera for daytime observation and is highly portable, since three UAVs and support equipment, including wireless control panels, can be transported on two 3.5-ton trucks.
Further development of the UAV will give it short takeoff capability, so it can be launched almost anywhere, and forward-aimed infrared cameras for night operations. The next model will be able to stay in the air for up to six hours, with better wireless control and an operational radius of 80 km.
Korean Air said that once the UAV is fully developed, it could provide the military with a new means of observing battlefields, and be used for civilian applications like monitoring traffic and illegal fishing. Sales of the new UAV could reach 800 billion ($850 million) won within the next 10 years, a company spokesman said, of which exports would comprise 300 billion won ($319 million).