skip to main content

KAI and KAL eye RoKA's future division-level reconnaissance UAV programme

KAI NI-500VT concept model displayed at ADEX 2021. (Dae Young Kim)

South Korean aerospace companies are positioning to meet a potential Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) requirement for a next-generation, division-level reconnaissance and target acquisition unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Officials from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Korean Air (KAL) told Janes at the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition 2021 (ADEX 2021), held from 19 to 23 October, that RoKA desires a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability along with high-speed level flight performance.

KAI exhibited a model of a tiltrotor reconnaissance UAV known as the Night Intruder 500 Vectored Thrust (NI-500VT), which has a maximum take-off weight of 450 kg and is 4 m long and 4.3 m wide. According to the company, the air vehicle features a hybrid-electric propulsion system that enables it to carry a 40 kg payload and stay aloft for up to five hours. A KAI official told Janes that the wing can be disassembled for road transportation.

Meanwhile, KAL introduced the KUS-VS, a fixed-wing UAV that is an upgraded version of the incumbent KUS-FT in RoKA service. However, the KUS-VS features new vertical lift units on the wings to enable VTOL manoeuvres, and transitions into conventional level flight with its rear-mounted pusher propeller once cruising altitude has been attained.

The stated maximum speed of the KUS-VS is over 160 km/h although the air vehicle usually cruises at speeds of around 120 km/h at altitudes of more than 14,763 ft (4,500 m). Endurance is claimed to be in excess of five hours, depending on its payload, out to an operational radius of 80 km.

Looking to read the full article?

Gain unlimited access to Janes news and more...