Korean Air Lines Co. will mass produce an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The nation’s No. 1 air carrier announced on Jan. 10 that it has signed a deal with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) at the end of December last year to mass produce a new UAV, or drone, for military reconnaissance missions.
The budget for the deal with DAPA, which will be carried out for five years from this year to 2020, totals 400 billion won ($333.47 million), and Korean Air will receive 230 billion won (US$191.75 million) for three years through 2018 in its initial phase. The private airliner developed the drone for military purposes for four years until Nov. 2014, and it proved the eligibility for reconnaissance missions at the operational test and received an airworthiness certification for the first time in South Korea last year.
The new drone is 4.2 meters (14.7 feet) wide and 3.4 meters long and can make an automatic landing on unpaved fields at night or in fog. It is also able to nosedive into mountainous areas and touch down within 30 meters of a targeted spot.
Its landing gear can alternate between wheels and skids, and it can release a parachute in an emergency situation to prevent damage and facilitate its retrieval. Accordingly, the drone has high military operational capability and credibility. Nearly 95 percent of the aircraft's components are made by South Korean suppliers.
With the success in domestic production of the military drone, the company has been seeking to tap into the markets in Central Asia and South America.
Having foreseen the potential of the UAV market from the late 1990s, Korean Air has concentrated its research capabilities in the sector, and solidified its position as the nation’s No. 1 developer of UAVs after building machines like medium-altitude aircraft, unmanned tilt-rotor aircraft, 500MD UAVs, and the currently developing reconnaissance drone.