The South Korean government is accelerating the development of software (SW) and operating system (OS) for unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in order to strengthen its industrial competitiveness.
According to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) on January 3, the SW sector in the “unmanned vehicle future leading core technology development project” led by the MSIP includes three areas – flight control computer, task control computer and failure diagnosis SW – with a budget of 5.2 billion won (US$4.31 million), which accounts for about 13 percent in the total budget of 40 billion won (US$33.14 million).
In this regard, SW core algorithm is realized with the standard SW architecture such as open source-based firmware and middleware. The flight control computer is currently under development by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the task control computer by the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), the failure diagnosis SW by the KARI along with Korea Aerospace University and Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology.
The government is accelerating the development of not only SW but also OS. The ETRI has started developing “Qplus-HYPER” for drones, which runs two operating systems on one hardware at the same time. Since drones has different image processing areas from aircrafts, they need two hardware and two OS. This is why there is a limit to weight reduction and drones require a high power consumption. However, the Qplus-HYPER is a technology that can safely integrate two OS on one hardware. The ETRI also aims to complete the development of “Qplus-AIR” for drones by the second half of this year. The Qplus-AIR is the OS for airplanes which has been adopted to Surion helicopters after it succeeded in the first commercialization in 2012.
Meanwhile, the government plans to transfer technologies to private companies as soon as the development of drone SW and OS is finished. The MSIP believes that the level of domestic unmanned vehicle technologies ranks seventh in the world, and South Korea is at a competitive disadvantage against China in terms of price and advanced countries in terms of technical skills, though there has been an increasing number of drone developers. In particular, domestic companies are suffering from petty sales and lack the capability of research and development. In addition, there are no stable demand basis so the companies show a lack of momentum to develop technologies, according to the MSIP.