The Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) aims to formally establish a specialised unit that will operate and develop new concepts of operation for unmanned aerial and unmanned ground vehicles (UAVs and UGVs) by 2019, an army spokesperson told Jane’s at the DX Korea 2018 exhibition.
The new unit – which is known locally as Dronebot Jeontudan (‘Warrior’) – was first announced in December 2017 to enable the service to create the necessary command and human resource infrastructure, such as a new military occupational specialty to recruit suitable candidates within its ranks. The unit is expected to be “battalion-sized” and will begin operations in October 2018, although it will only be fully staffed by 2019.
The unit nomenclature is a portmanteau word from ‘drone’ and ‘robot’, embodying the RoKA’s aim to develop and deploy unmanned platforms that incorporate advanced autonomy and cutting-edge capabilities.
“The preference is for troops who already possess considerable aptitude or experience in operating such systems,” the spokesperson said, noting that “those with formal training or qualifications related to drone operation and maintenance will be given priority.”
Jane’s understands that the Dronebot Warrior unit is presently staffed by conscript and professional soldiers but the service plans to recruit civilian experts to provide training and mentorship for the troops.
The spokesperson noted that current capabilities such as the Uconsystem RemoEye-002B and KAL-ASD KUS-FT tactical UAVs will remain with their respective units, and will not be reassigned to the Dronebot Warrior unit. Instead, it is expected initially to operate new types of surveillance and strike-capable mini- to tactical-class UAVs, with one example being the indigenously developed Striker Drone quadcopter manufactured by NES&TEC, which has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 9 kg and can carry a 2.5 kg payload such as an electro-optic camera as well as a pair of small 500 g bombs.
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