Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), South Korea’s leading aerospace company, announced the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Northrop Grumman (NG) of the United States for technical cooperation on vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The signing ceremony took place on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the Korea Aerospace Industries headquarters in Sacheon, attended by key officials including KAI director Kim Ji-hong, Northrop Grumman G vice president Richard J. Sullivan, and Korean branch manager Ha Dong-jin.
Key to this MOU is mutual cooperation to develop in South Korea a vertical take-off and landing UAV that can be deployed and operated by Navy and Coast Guard surface ships.
The vertical take-off and landing UAVs for maritime missions are expected to be used for territorial defense and surveillance of jurisdictional waters, as well as beyond-the-horizon intelligence, reconnaissance and target acquisition for frigate and destroyers’ weapon systems.
KAI expects to greatly reduce the development risk and period required based on NG’s proven development experience in this area. The U.S. company is the developer of the MQ-8 Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing UAV, currently operated by the U.S. Navy, and has vertical take-off and landing UAV development technology optimized for maritime missions.
KAI’s Future Convergence Technology Director Kim Ji-hong said, “We are focusing on developing next-generation UAV technology with the goal of leading the future unmanned era,” he said.
NG vice president Richard Sullivan commented, “Northrop Grumman has consistently led the market in the field of advanced UAVs, and we expect cooperation with KAI to dramatically enhance the Republic of Korea Navy’s maritime reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.”
Meanwhile, KAI has secured several key UAV technologies through its own previous research, such as with the development of the RQ-101 Night Intruder, a tactical drone for conducting battlefield intelligence; as well as other previous research with scaled-down unmanned fighter UAV models, long-range reconnaissance drones and even a technology demonstrator using tilt-type rotors.
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In the future, KAI plans to internalize future cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data, to expand its reach into new businesses such as future complex manned and unmanned state-of-the-art systems.