Designs by Bell and Elbit Systems under review as ideas for gyroplane, tiltwing or stopped wing aircraft are assessed

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) is developing avertical take-off and landing unmanned air vehicle (VTOL UAV) that could be manufactured indigenously.

KARI began studying VTOL UAVs in January and is now in the concept validation phase of a 10-year project. Bell and Elbit Systems have competed for KARI studies on design alternatives, which the government agency is reviewing with the help of local companies.

"We had a workshop last June and we're discussing which UAV will be optimum for our concept," says project manager Cheol-Ho Lim.

KARI's Smart UAV technology development team plans to select a design concept within the next few months. Possible concepts include a gyroplane, tiltwing or stopped wing aircraft.

The team is tasked with developing a small high-speed VTOL UAV capable of 215kt (400km/h) cruise speed at 9,800ft (3,000m) for up to 5h, with a 40kg (88lb) payload. The length of the 300kgvehicle will be 1-3m (3-10ft).

The UAV will be equipped with a collision avoidance system capable of detecting traffic within 3km (1.6nm) and should be able to land or take off in a 20kt crosswind.

Lim says a decision on whether to assemble the vehicle will be made in two to three years. It is unclear what role foreign companies will play in manufacture.

Bell and Elbit, the only two foreign companies involved so far, are not contracted to provide any additional information beyond that already submitted.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is not participating in the project, but is a likely candidate for vehicle manufacture. KAI is studying the UAV market fornew business opportunities.

Dozens of South Korean companies are supplying engineers to help KARI with development. Conglomerate LG has been tasked with working on the avionics for the vehicle.

Ground tests are scheduled from next year, flight tests with a small-scale demonstration vehicle from 2005, flight tests of an advanced vehicle from 2007 and flight tests of the final vehicle from 2010.

Source: Flight International