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South Korea increases budget for procurement of indigenous UAVs

The South Korean government plans to increase its budget for the procurement of locally developed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) more than sixfold within a year – from KRW6.2 billion (USD5.3 million) in 2021 to KRW37.5 billion in 2022 (USD32.2 million) – as part of efforts to help the domestic UAV industry β€˜have stable demand for growth'.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Seoul announced on 11 August that the plan, which is part of the β€˜Defense Drone Development Strategy', was unveiled during a high-level meeting held that same day on a set of measures designed to foster South Korea's defence industry.

During the meeting, which was headed jointly by Defence Minister Suh Wook and Industry Minister Moon Sung-wook, the government also agreed to raise the budget for UAV-related, rapid-acquisition pilot projects from KRW20.3 billion this year to KRW61.4 billion in 2022. Moreover, the MND said that the Republic of Korea Army's (RoKA's) 31st Infantry Division has been selected as a testbed unit for such pilot projects.

Before the end of the year the military also plans to devise a mid- to long-term roadmap to expand the military use of UAVs.

The MND also announced that an agreement was reached during the meeting to locally develop a cargo UAV – with a 200 kg payload – powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The latest developments come after South Korea's Defense Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) revealed in early August that it would begin trialling two new types of locally sourced UAVs in the first half of 2022.

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