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KAL readies hybrid-powered UAVs for South Korean military

Korean Air (KAL) announced on 30 July that it had been contracted to supply an undisclosed number of hybrid-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) prototypes to the government’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) for testing by the South Korean military.

KAL will be supplying its Hybrid Drone octocopter UAV for evaluation by military users.  (Korean Air)

KAL will be supplying its Hybrid Drone octocopter UAV for evaluation by military users. (Korean Air)

The prototypes will be assessed under the Vertical Take-off and Landing Coastguard Drone (Rotary Wing) category of DAPA’s Rapid Demonstration Acquisition Program, which seeks to exploit the agility which the private sector can bring in order to introduce mature products into the market and leverage these developments for government and military applications.

KAL has been developing its hybrid-powered octocopter UAV, which it calls the Hybrid Drone, since 2016 using internal research and development funding. The platform is equipped with a hybrid propulsion system that combines an internal combustion engine with electric motors, which it claims can offer an extended flight endurance of up to 2 hours compared to full-electric UAVs in the same weight class. The on-board battery also functions as a secondary power source should the engine fail, increasing the survivability of the UAV.

In addition, the air vehicle’s maximum flight altitude and speed was increased to 1,640 ft (500 m) and 72 km/h, respectively. It has also been designed for operation in temperature conditions of between -20°C and 45 °C.

The Hybrid Drone can carry an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor package that enables it to capture high-resolution imagery and transmit the data in real-time.

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