Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Developed

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – which can hover at an altitude of 20 km for several months- solely with Korean technologies. On January 7, Korea Aerospace University (KAU) and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on developing a solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle. The MoU came to push ahead with a plan to create a solar-powered drone by merging the KAU’s design technology for mid-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles with KIST’s solar cell power generation technology.

At the end of last month, KIST had already inked a MoU with Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) to develop unmanned aerial vehicles. The KAU and KIST plan on ultimately developing an unmanned aerial vehicle with 40m-long wings, to which solar cells are attached to power the motor-operated propeller. At night, electricity stored on the lithium-ion battery will come into play to help the drone stay at high altitudes.

By 2012, a prototype UAV with 4m-long wings is expected to be flown on a pilot run, and a UAV, 10 times the size of the prototype UAV, will emerge by the second half of 2010. Officials from KIST and the KAU have set their first goal of a 48-hour non-stop flight. Since solar powered UAVs- effectively used for aerial surveillance over a vast geographic area around the clock for 364 days- have strategic military value, NASA (the United States space agency), the UK and Germany are keen on developing ultra high altitude drones.

On the other hand, NASA developed "Helios", a solar-powered UAV which was designed to fly in the stratosphere, but it fell down from an altitude of 8,000m and crashed during its test flight in 2003.