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​ADEX: IAI, Korean firm in VTOL UAV joint venture

IAI and South Korean firm Hankuk Carbon have formed a joint venture to develop vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAVs for military use.

The new company will be called Korea Aviation Technologies (KAT), said the two firms during a media briefing at the Seoul ADEX show. The parties did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, or the ownership structure of KAT.

The companies have worked closely together since early 2016, when they signed a memorandum of understanding to develop UAV systems. This culminated in an advanced version of IAI's Panther VTOL UAV, the FE-Panther, which is being pitched for a South Korean military requirement.

A slide presented during the presentation reflects an ambitious roadmap. The FE-Panther has a MTOW of 67-100KG, and is suitable for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).

KAT’s next project, the “next generation VTOL UAS/PAV”, will have an MTOW of 400-500kg, and be developed between 2017-2023. In addition to ISR, it will capable of air taxi duties. The company will develop this system from its own funds.

The two companies list several benefits of VTOL UAVs, which can take off vertically, and then use wings to fly similar to a conventional fixed wing aircraft. They say VTOL eliminates the need for a runway, allows more precise takeoff and landings, and is easier from a logistical perspective.

The planned UAV will have a hybrid power system. It will use an internal combustion engine for level flight owing to the extended endurance derived from high energy density. An electric motor, which features low weight and high power density, will be used for takeoff and landing.

A follow-on system will have an MTOW of 4,000kg, but no timeline is given for this project.

The former head of South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), Moo-Geun Byun, spoke at the briefing, describing how VTOL UAVs are of particular use on the Korean Peninsula.

“Recently, our military started to require enhanced surveillance and monitoring assets, as well as command and control systems, as the North Korean nuclear threat rises. For that reason, we need VTOL UAS to monitor mountainous areas, and for employment on warships.”

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