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Aviation

Leading the Future Aviation Industry with Core Next-Generation Technologies

Aviation

Development of cutting-edge aircraft for the advancement of the aviation industry

The aviation industry is technology-led and technology-competitive based on technology integration and industry applying cutting-edge technologies such as computers, precision machinery, communications electronics, and new materials, wielding a large ripple effect on other industries. KARI focuses on improving the technology level and building the foundation for independent technology development to facilitate the development of the high-value-added aviation industry. KARI successfully developed the Bandi, a small four-seater aircraft with domestic technology and 18 core components for civil and military use as to be applied to the Korean Helicopter Program (KHP) for helicopter technology independence. That made Korea the 11th country in the world to develop helicopters. Related technologies were also derived for the development of military and civil helicopters. KARI signed the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) with the United States to enter overseas markets for aviation technology and developed the small aircraft (KC-100) certified for international aviation safety.

Development of personal aircraft for eco-friendly, high-efficiency aviation technology and transportation innovation

The competition to develop eco-friendly, high-efficiency aviation technologies and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to enhance the economy, safety, and efficiency of aircraft has heated up recently. Although UAVs were initially developed for military use, their applications have recently expanded to private sectors such as science and technology, transportation, communication, logistics, rescue, aerial photography, and agriculture, and they are expected to lead the aviation industry’s growth and market in the future. According to aerospace and defense consulting company Teal group, the UAV market size is expected to grow to USD 12.5 billion by 2023, USD 880 million of which will be for civil use, to show a high annual average growth of 35%. Since UAV is the convergence system of aviation technology and IT, it is ideal for Korea. Currently considered to have the world’s top 7 UAV technical competitiveness, Korea aims to rank among the top 5 UAV industrial countries by 2023 and among the top 3 by 2027. KARI is developing a personal air vehicle (PAV) that will bring transportation innovation in the future through the convergence of advanced UAVs, aviation technology, and information and communication technology (ICT) that can penetrate the global UAV niche markets. Beginning with the Durumi, a small endurance UAV, KARI developed a medium-sized aerostat system and an LTA (Lighter Than Air) aircraft system with long endurance. It also developed the world's second smart UAV, a tiltrotor capable of both vertical takeoff/landing and high-speed flight. Since then, the institute has transferred the smart UAV technologies to industries, and it plans to develop various derivative technologies such as automatic shipboard takeoff/landing technology, tilt duct UAV, and quad tilt-prop (QTP) UAV to be used for the commercialization of tiltrotor UAV, future aircraft, and next-generation flight vehicles. KARI has also developed an electrical aerial vehicle (EAV), a solar-powered UAV that can stay in the stratosphere for a long time, and various types of disaster relief UAVs that can protect public safety and respond to disasters and accidents. Currently, KARI is developing future advanced core technologies for unmanned vehicles to identify innovative unmanned vehicles such as autonomous vehicles and autonomous ships and develop original technologies. Moreover, KARI is developing the core technologies for the optionally piloted personal air vehicle (OPPAV) that will bring new air traffic innovations, the unmanned aerial system traffic management (UTM) system for the safe and efficient flight of UAVs, and the small UAV certification technology to broaden the use of UAVs in the private sector. Its R&D program also includes the UAV collision avoidance system that automatically determines the risk of aerial collision and avoids it.

UAV

Updates : 2021.06.25

01OPPAV, Optionally Piloted Personal Air Vehicle Technology Demonstrator

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Emerging market competition for urban air mobility

The competition to develop electrically powered and vertical takeoff/landing eVTOL(electric Vertical Takeoff & Landing)s is fierce worldwide in a bid to take the early lead in the urban air mobility (UAM) market. The eVTOLs have attracted attention as the key to the next-generation transportation revolution that can transport people quickly without being constrained by congestion on the ground. eVTOL is a new transportation system that can drastically reduce travel time, leading to a reduction of enormous social costs resulting from traffic increase on the ground.

Development of eVTOL Technology Demonstrator(OPPAV) for UAM

Korea also began developing the electrically powered vertical takeoff/landing eVTOL to demonstrate new technologies. Korean companies (KAI, Hyundai Motors, Hanwha System, VesselAerospace, KAT, Doota, EDT, and RealtimeWave), research institutes (KIAST and KOTI), and Konkuk University formed a consortium for the program sponsored jointly by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT) and the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy (MOTIE) and led by KARI beginning 2019. MOTIE project is in charge of developing a one-seater prototype of the OPPAV technology demonstrator, which can vertically take off and land and can cruise at a speed of 200km/h or more, and the ground control system to demonstrate the distributed electric propulsion system and automatic flight system technologies. The OPPAV is the name of KARI eVTOL and the acronym of Optionally Piloted Personal/Passenger Air Vehicle. MOLIT project is in charge of developing the certification technology and automatic flight control system of eVTOL. KARI was selected as a leading institute of the program according to the previous VTOL UAV development experiences in early 2019. Wind tunnel test campaign of sub-scaled powered model was successfully completed in July, 2020 using a KARI LSWT. A flight test of 44% sub-scale technology demonstrator was started from the end of 2020. The first flight of full scale technology demonstrator will be scheduled in mid-2022.
  • Overall Length6.15m
  • Wingspan7m
  • Cruise speed200km/h
  • Maximum speed240km/h
  • Maximum Take-off Weight650㎏
  • Payload Weight100kg
  • Passengers1 person
  • Range50 km or more
Wind Tunnel Test of OPPAV Scaled Powered Model in KARI-LSWT
Sub-scaled OPPAV Flight Test at Goheung Flight Test Center
Full Scale OPPAV Technology Demonstrator(CG)

02QTP-UAV, Quad Tilt-Prop Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

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Takeoff with 4 rotors like a helicopter

KARI developed a QTP-UAV that had four rotors based on the tiltrotor technology to be ready for the PAV market. The QTP-UAV is a distributed electric propulsion unmanned vehicle configured with one battery, four electric motors, and props. Since the battery supplies power to multiple motors, the system is simple, and flight stability can increase by controlling the four rotors. The four rotors of the QTP-UAV are in a vertical position like a helicopter during takeoff and landing. They are then positioned in parallel to the fuselage like a fixed-wing aircraft during cruising after takeoff. The core technologies for the development of the QTP-UAV are the position control technology that controls the rotors simultaneously to maintain the flight position during takeoff/landing and cruising and the power control technology that supplies even power to motors through power lines. The QTP-UAV was developed through the main project for two years between 2016 and 2018. The system integration designed the UAV system, analyzed the vehicle sizing and performance, designed the shape, and analyzed the load of the prop and tilt systems. It then conducted system integration ground and flight tests. The propulsion team developed a hybrid system configured with the engine, generator, and battery. The control team developed the flight control system and ground control system. The structure team was responsible for the structural load analysis and structural design of the vehicle. The aerodynamic team conducted the computational flow analysis and wind tunnel test of the vehicle. The rotary-wing team designed and analyzed the props.

Maximum speed of 165 km/h in a test flight in 2018

The QTP-UAV system is configured with the vehicle, ground control, and communication system. The vehicle is equipped with a communication system in two UHF frequencies and a sensor-integrated flight control computer. Three QTP-UAV vehicles including two battery versions and one wind tunnel model were manufactured. The wind tunnel model was manufactured in a way that enables conversion into a hybrid version after the test. The flight test of the QTP-UAV was held at the Goheung Aeronautical Center. The first rotary-wing flight without the safety rope was held on September 11, 2018. The flight test began with a hover flight, followed by the low-altitude rotary-wing mode test at a low altitude over the runway, manual flight by an outside pilot, maintenance mode by an inside pilot, and finally automatic flight. After the rotary-wing mode flight, the transition mode was carried out gradually through point navigation with altitude of 100 to 200m and radius of 500 to 600m. On September 18, 2018, the vehicle succeeded in transition mode flight by reaching tilt of 0 degrees and flight speed of up to 145 km/h through gradual speed increase from the point navigation mode. On October 25, 2018, the test reached maximum speed of 165 km/h by modifying the control logic and gain to improve the flight characteristics. The development of the QTP-UAV resulted in securing the characteristics and related flight control technologies. Moreover, it secured the high-speed vertical takeoff/landing UAV system with total weight of 50 kg and distributed propulsion. The original technology for the distributed electric propulsion vertical takeoff/landing aircraft can be utilized in electric propulsion vertical takeoff/landing PAV, which is emerging as a future transportation means.

2019 DTP-H 1-hour endurance flight test

The QTP-UAV consisting of four props and using battery power was limited to a maximum flight time of less than 30 minutes. As one of the ways to overcome the limited flight time, a hybrid propulsion system consisting of engine-generator-battery instead of the existing battery was developed and applied to the QTP-UAV. The hybrid propulsion system consisted of a 10-hp 2-cylinder reciprocating engine, a generator of up to 5kW, and a 600W battery. It was installed in the existing battery space. Moreover, the two front props were replaced with a fixed-pitch lift prop to reduce the weight of the vehicle and increase the props’ propulsion efficiency. The flight test of DTP-H equipped with the hybrid propulsion system was conducted on December 16, 2019 at a flight speed of 60-70 km/h, which required the least power. It succeeded in flying 62 minutes with about 4 liters of fuel.
  • Length2 m (Width 2.2 m)
  • Prop radius0.55m
  • Total weight48kg
  • Mission equipment3kg
  • Maximum velocity160km/h
  • Maximum Flight duration30 minutes (battery) and 1 hour (hybrid)
Maximum speed of 165 km/h in a test flight in 2018

03UAV for Disaster & Public Safety

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Differentiated performance and mission from existing drones

From 2017 to 2020, KARI developed disaster relief UAV, ground control system, communication and operation management system, and specialized mission equipment that could support quick field information collection and effective mission execution in the event of disaster or accident. KARI executed the “Implementation and Operation of UAV Convergence System for National Safety Monitoring and Response” program (joint ministry program) as program director. The National Fire Agency organized the program to address social problems in disaster management and public safety, with the participation of the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), MOTIE, Korea Coast Guard, and National Police Agency. As the first step for developing convergence technology in the field of disaster relief and aerospace, 29 organizations and companies participated in the technology development managed by the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology (KEIT). The system engineering technique was applied throughout the development process. It was the private sector’s first small UAV system development program for disaster relief participated in by government ministries, with an expert advisory group from the industry/academe/research participating in the project program’s mission definition to system design, basic design, detailed design, prototype manufacturing, and integrated test and evaluation.
The UAV system for disaster relief featured multi-point transmission of mission information, simultaneous operation and management of multiple UAVs, waterproof and dustproof, wind and heat resistance, LTE/WiFi/C-band communication triple redundancy, 14 specialized mission equipment plug and play, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology to operate the UAV where it is dark and difficult to catch the GPS signal like a tunnel, and invisible communication and relay. The focus was on improving the fire department's mission execution capability, coast guard, and police under various disaster relief conditions with differentiated performance and functions not available in existing UAVs. The UAV integrated system for disaster relief is used for missions such as tunnel accidents, fire accidents, harmful gas accidents, radioactive leak accidents, maritime patrols (distress and illegal fishing vessel monitoring), marine pollution accidents, search for ships and victims, patrol and traffic monitoring in crime-prone areas, controlling illegal drones, and identification of criminal vehicles and suspects. It is expected to strengthen the preventive function and improve the capability for initial response.

Rapid information collection and initial response on disaster and public safety sites

The program was completed in August 2020 following successful integrated test and operability evaluation. Afterward, the UAV integrated system for disaster relief will be provided to the National Fire Agency, Korea Coast Guard, and National Police Agency and will be deployed at the disaster relief sites following test operation and field development. The UAV for disaster and public safety will be deployed in firefighting, coast guard, and police missions for quickly collecting on-site information, responding quickly to the situation, detecting the disaster situation early, and monitoring the progress and recovery. The UAV integrated system for disaster relief developed through this R&D project program will be deployed and operated at the forefront of disaster relief, contributing considerably to the creation of a future society where public safety is the top priority. The UAV integrated system for disaster relief is used for missions such as tunnel accidents, fire accidents, harmful gas accidents, radioactive leak accidents, maritime patrols (distress and illegal fishing vessel monitoring), marine pollution accidents, search for ships and victims, patrols and traffic monitoring in crime-prone areas, control of illegal drones, and identification of criminal vehicles and suspects. It is expected to strengthen the preventive function and improve the capability for initial response.

MC-1 (for response to indoor disaster)

  • Dimension580x585x459mm
  • Maximum takeoff weight7kg
  • Flight time20 minutes or longer
  • Operating temperature-20~50℃
  • Dustproof and waterproof ratingIP43
  • Heatproof125℃ (10-second exposure)

MC-2 (for response to outdoor disaster)

  • Dimension927x930x750mm
  • Maximum takeoff weight17kg
  • Flight time20 minutes or longer
  • Wind resistance10 m/s
  • Operating temperature-20~50℃
  • Dustproof and waterproof ratingIP43
  • Heatproof125 ℃ (10-second exposure)
  • Internal corrosion48-hour exposure in 5% saltwater spray

MC-3 (for response to outdoor disaster)

  • Dimension1480x1868x831mm
  • Maximum takeoff weight35kg
  • Flight time20 minutes or longer
  • Wind resistance15 m/s
  • Operating temperature-20~50℃
  • Dustproof and waterproof ratingIP43
  • Internal corrosion48-hour exposure in 5% saltwater spray

04Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management (UTM)

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Traffic management service with drones, maximization of safety of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, and utilization of UAVs

As UAV technology advances, it is widely used in the private and public sectors, and the demand for flight is rapidly increasing. As a result, ensuring the safety between drones, drones and other manned aircraft, and drones and people on the ground has emerged as an important technical and institutional challenge. Accordingly, studies on the low-altitude unmanned aerial system traffic management (UTM) for the safe operation of UAVs by minimizing the impact on the operation safety of manned aircraft and maximizing the utilization of unmanned vehicles began in the United States and spread to Europe (U-space) and other countries. The low-altitude UTM provides traffic management services for the safe, efficient flight of unmanned aerial vehicles weighing 150 kg or less and operating at an altitude of 150 m or less. With the support of MOLIT, KARI is participating in the low-altitude UTM development and demonstration test R&D project that began in 2017 with the goal of completion in 2022. A replanning in 2019 modified the research goal and scope by reflecting the international technology trend. Phase 2 of the development project began in 2020. The scope of phase 2 of the low-altitude UTM project is the separate design and development of the flight information management system (FIMS) managed by the government and the UTM service system (USS) to be managed by the private sector. Moreover, the project scope includes developing the UTM operational safety technologies by specifying the location recognition requirements, altitude standard, and separation standard setting for public service design and safe flight and implementation of the simulation system.

Successful traffic management demonstration with more than 20 drones

Phase 1 of the project constructed the low-altitude UTM control room and developed the traffic management system to manage five or more drones flying in invisible areas simultaneously. The currently ongoing phase 2 is constructing the national network and conducting an in-depth study on the application scope and traffic management mode. To develop and test the low-altitude UTM to manage 20 or more drones in 2 or more regions, 6 drones each assigned missions, such as surveying, completed the demonstration of applying for permission to take off to their destinations, obtaining permission, completing the mission, and getting permission to land using the low-altitude UTM. Demonstrations of the link between a delivery drone for transporting oil samples at the GS Caltex Distribution Center in Incheon and a low-altitude UTM were conducted in April 2020, and the link between EHang's 216 eVTOL UAM aircraft and the low-altitude UTM at Hangang Civic Park in Yeouido was completed in November 2020. Since the low-altitude UTM utilizes a high-speed mobile communication network and an Internet network, users can easily monitor the drone's ID, location information, and actual flight trajectories in real time anytime, anywhere with mobile devices. Drones using the low-altitude UTM can check the flight information of other drones operating in the vicinity and receive information on no-fly zones, weather information, and manned aircraft flight information for use in flight. Therefore, the system is it is expected to increase the operational safety and utilization of drones by providing automatic alarm information to avoid collisions with other aircraft, approaching no-fly zones, and crashing. Moreover, the air traffic management organizations or the government can use them as a basic means of monitoring and detecting illegal drones and preventing collisions between unmanned aircraft. The low-altitude UTM can be applied as the infrastructure technology to ensure the navigational safety of unmanned flying devices, commonly referred to as a drone, and PAVs in the future urban air mobility environment.
Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management (UTM)

05Development of small UAV certification technology

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Standardization of civil UAV certification technology

Leading the market growth through the technology convergence of aviation and ICT, the UAV has been dominated by the military market until now, but the commercial market is also expected to grow rapidly in the future. Unmanned Aircraft System(UAS) which is characterized with compounded technologies of aeronautics, information and intelligence and others, has lead the market expansion in civil as well as in military. Governments are establishing laws, systems, and standards, designating UAV test airspaces, and issuing limited special operating permits to expand the use of UAVs in the private sector internationally so as to meet the demand for UAVs. Following this change, the international organizations and each nation have prepared laws, regimes, and standards for UAS development and operation according to the expansion of the UAS market and allowed its operation under the experimental airspace with restricted or special conditions.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been working on international standardization, including Airworthiness Code, since 2014 for UAVs with total weight of 150kg or more; the US FAA established the risk-based certification system through the UAV-type certification project, and it has been applying such since 2013. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has worked on international standardization for UAS over empty weight 150kg since 2014 and the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) has established and applied the risk-based certification concept through the projects relating to type certification of UAS since 2013. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been developing the airworthiness standard by classifying the UAVs and lightweight UAVs based on the maximum takeoff weight of 600kg since 2015. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has classified UAS against the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) 600kg and been developing the airworthiness standards for them. In Korea, the revision of the aircraft technical standard in August 2020 led to complemented procedures for special airworthiness certification of aircraft that applied the new technology for research and development instead of conventional aircraft technology standards such as unmanned aerial vehicles, electrically powered vertical takeoff/landing aircraft, and optionally piloted aircraft. It also mandated safety verification according to the safety evaluation table for the special airworthiness certification test for experimental classification. In 2020, Korea Civil Aviation Office (KCAO) has released the revised Korean Airworthiness Standards (KAS) covering the special airworthiness certification procedure of advanced aircraft, UAS, electrically powered vertical takeoff/landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and optionally piloted aircraft, and including the safety checklist for special airworthiness certification newly.

Development of certification technology for civil UAV of small aircraft class

The development project for small UAV certification technology began in April 2019 to meet the ICAO international standards and recommendations and secure a certification system equivalent to that of other leading countries in response to the international standardization of UAV certification technology. It is currently in the research and development stage to implement the UAV certification infrastructure by December 2023. In order to comply the international standards and recommendations from ICAO and to establish a certification basis equivalent to the leading countries, the development of certification technology for Unmanned small UAV has launched in April 2019 through December 2023. The project is converting the four-seater small aircraft KC-100 Naraon, which acquired the domestic type certificate in 2013, into a UAV; the design conformity standard (draft) that complies with the change procedure for type certification of the aircraft technical standard and applies the special conditions of the aircraft technology standard is being prepared. Based on these standards, we expect to establish the certification base and system for civil UAVs through the procedure of developing small unmanned aircraft system and verifying its suitability. In this project, we will work to convert the 4 passengers small aircraft, KC-100 Naraon, into UAS and to verify the compliance of certification basis draft for UAS under the piloted certification procedure, which is based on the partial adoption of the certification standards for aircraft and special conditions for UAS. Through this research and development, it is expected that the base of certification technology for civil UAS will be established.
  • Length8.03 m (width 11.29 m)
  • Total weight1,633kg
  • Mission equipment100kg
  • Maximum velocity389km/h
  • Maximum flight duration5 hours
Development of small UAV certification technology
Development of small UAV certification technology

06Tiltduct UAV

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Up to 60% thrust efficiency compared to ductless UAV

As a UAV whose propellers are covered with a duct, the Tiltduct UAV can generate up to 60% UAV propulsion efficiency without a duct. Applying a tiltduct-shaped wing that floats and flies like a helicopter protects the wings from ground structures and increases thrust. It can interface with a ground system to assign a mission to the aerial vehicle and monitor and control it from the ground. The tiltduct UAV (TD-40) was developed from 2012 to 2017 as the task of developing multipurpose vertical takeoff/landing flying robot system capable of flying for one hour or longer as part of the project to develop core technology for the robot industry convergence by MOTIE. The required performance of the TD-40 includes speed of more than 150 km/h, flight time of 1.5 hours, and precision control performance capable of automatic takeoff and landing from and to a mobile docking station. The tiltduct UAV system consists of vehicle, ground control, and communication system. The ground control system whose built-in GCS program was developed internally consists of a laptop computer, a controller, and a knob device. The aircraft is equipped with a flight control computer integrating communication equipment and sensors. Each duct of the tiltduct UAV has the main prop capable of collective pitch control, structured as a ring wing equipped with a vane device for position control. The fuselage was equipped with a 15-hp rotary engine and a motor-driven rear prop between the horizontal and vertical tail wings.
The control method of the tiltduct UAV varies depending on its flight mode. In rotary-wing mode, the collective pitch of the main and rear props controls the position. If the tilt approaches the fixed-wing mode, the position is controlled using the vane inside the duct and the horizontal tail wings' control surface. The safety line test identified the characteristics of the rotary-wing mode flight and duct effects of the aerial vehicle and secured the stability of the control logic and improved control.

Initial flight speed of 153 km/h

KARI started the initial flight of the tiltduct UAV at the Goheung Aviation Test Center in 2017 and achieved a flight speed of 153 km/h. The flight test started with hover flight, followed by the rotary-wing mode flight, maintenance flight by an inside pilot, and transition mode automatic flight. The tiltduct UAV can fly at a speed of 150 km/h for up to 1 hour and 30 minutes in the air. A docking station connected to the outside increases the operational efficiency of the UAV by providing an environment where a vehicle can take off and land on the street instead of an open area in case of an emergency. Since it can be operated in an area without a runway or in a small and narrow area, it is applicable to various fields such as fire and security monitoring, real-time investigation of animal and plant distribution, vehicle tracking, and remote diagnosis of large structures.

TD-40

  • Full length2 M (Full width 2 m)
  • Total weight40kg
  • Maximum speed170km/h
  • Flight duration2.5hrs

TD-20

  • Full length1.5 M (Full width 1.5m)
  • Total weight20kg
  • Maximum speed150km/h
  • Flight duration1hrs

07UAV collision avoidance system

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Development of a UAV collision avoidance system based on the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B)

With the rapid growth of the UAV field, it is important to have a system that can prevent accidents that may occur when a UAV enters the airspace of a manned aircraft. A UAV flying without a collision avoidance system can pose a great risk to aircraft operation from low to high altitudes. As such, the development of a collision avoidance system is a critical technology for commercializing UAVs and for the safety of manned aircraft. The technology is also crucial for developing urban air mobility (UAM) that many countries, including Korea, are investing in as a future technology. Along with the domestic industry, KARI developed the UAV collision avoidance system based on ADS-B that included the collision avoidance system with the built-in collision avoidance algorithm, ADS-B, and image sensor. The purpose of this project, which was carried out from 2015 to 2020, was to develop an integrated collision avoidance system in line with the performance of manned aircraft to enable the integrated operation of the UAV in the civil aircraft airspace so as to develop and test a UAV sensor fusion collision avoidance system based on ADS-B.

Performance verification with functional verification, flight test for data collection, and integrated flight test

The collision avoidance system of manned and unmanned aircraft to prevent aerial collision requires a system for recognizing nearby aircraft and generating an avoidance value. While a manned aircraft generally performs collision avoidance based on the traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) using a transponder, the ADS-B system that can exchange status values between aircraft through broadcasting has recently captured the spotlight as a device for detecting nearby aircraft. KARI designed and developed a collision avoidance system that avoids intruding aircraft using the ADS-B. The collision avoidance system consists of the collision avoidance module, ADS-B, and communication system. ADS-B uses 1Mbps and 978MHz band universal access transceiver (UAT) that determines the information on the intruding aircraft through the message with ADS-B. The developed system verified its function through component tests and performed flight tests to collect actual data. The collision avoidance system’s efficiency was optimized based on the analyzed data, and the performance of the developed system was verified through the final flight test.

08Optionally piloted vehicle (OPV)

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Conversion of manned aircraft into unmanned vehicle as an optionally piloted vehicle

An optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) is an aircraft capable of both manned and unmanned flights. KARI developed a technology that can convert a manned aircraft into an unmanned vehicle for use as an OPV with the goal of developing a scalable, basic unmanned flight platform that can test domestically developed aviation parts under actual flight condition and use them for the development of UAV. As an aircraft that can fly with or without a pilot, the OPV is ideal for the flight testing of aviation parts since it can perform repetitive operations. This project was sponsored by the aerospace part technology development project of MOTIE.

Initial flight test at the Goheung Aviation Test Center

The OPV is equipped with a flight control computer as well as various sensors, communication transceivers, and antennas. The actuators controlled by the flight control computer were interfaced to the existing control system, and an additional generator was mounted on the engine for power supply to operate the unmanned system. Since the maximum takeoff weight of 600 kg can cause significant damage in the event of an accident, the flight control system and communication system were configured for redundancy to increase reliability. Moreover, the vibration and temperature test of each component of the mounted system and the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) test of the mounted system were conducted. Additionally, we developed the basic ground control system and mounted the location tracking antenna to operate the unmanned flight. The OPV was tested for the initial flight at the Goheun Aviation Test Center in 2013. An outside pilot controlled takeoff and landing; when the aircraft reached a certain altitude after takeoff, the inside pilot in the ground control center piloted it in stick mode using the camera images from the aircraft. In other words, the aircraft performed automatic flight with the specified route points. After confirming the flight safety, the test parts were mounted on the aircraft for a flight test. We mounted a high-precision reference system to measure test parts accurately and developed the automatic flight test system to perform complex control repeatedly to take advantage of the UAV. Flight tests were conducted at Hanseo University (AHRS sensor test and GPS/inertial navigation system (INS) test) and Ulsan Airport (VHF omni-directional range (VOR) receiver test) for the three parts developed by domestic companies. The data analysis confirmed suitability.

Utilization of old military aircraft in UAV

The maximum speed and the maximum cruising distance of OPV are 222 km/h and 1,500 km, respectively. It can be effectively used for missions that are repetitive or which requires long endurance such as marine monitoring, wild fire, environment, transportation, and illegal fishing detection. The developed OPV technology can be utilized to convert old or obsolete military aircraft into UAVs to be used as target for shooting training, radar base striker, and disaster relief missions like search and reconnaissance. It is also used for developing technology for collision-avoidance system UAV based on ADS-B and research on safety navigation technology. The result of OPV research ranked among the top 10 mechanical technologies selected by the Korean Federation of Mechanical Engineering Societies in 2014.
  • Full length8.6m
  • Takeoff weight600 kg (Weight on board: 100 kg)
  • Maximum velocity222km/h
  • Flight duration2 hours
  • Cruising distance1,500 km (Mission radius: 50 km)

09Electrical Aerial Vehicle (EAV)

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Increasing attention to EAV flying over 18km or higher in the stratosphere

The solar-powered EAV, which can fly at an altitude of 18km or higher in the stratosphere for weeks, combines eco-friendly electric propulsion power system technology and high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) technology in keeping with the increasing interest in such vehicles. The stratospheric solar powered EAV uses lithium-ion batteries during takeoff, and solar cells mounted on the top of the wing continuously recharge secondary batteries as an energy source during a flight to remain in the stratosphere. At an altitude of 18 km or higher, the stratosphere’s atmospheric pressure is only one-twentieth of the ground, and the temperature drops to as low as -70°C. As an uncontrolled airspace, the stratosphere is ideal for missions like ground observation, meteorological observation, and communication relay since it is feasible to use sunlight as power source regardless of the weather because the wind speed is low and there are no clouds. Moreover, since ordinary civil aircraft fly at an altitude of 10 km, stratospheric flights are very safe as there is no risk of accidents with civil aircraft.
KARI developed the stratospheric solar-powered EAV-1 with wingspan of 2.6m, applying the fuel cell system, and conducted flight tests to examine the feasibility of using the lightweight fuel cell system for EAVs. KARI also developed the EAV-2, a 6m-span hybrid EAV that uses solar cells, batteries, and fuel cells as power source, and examined the strengths and weaknesses of each power source and feasibility for future use. According to a report by US-based aircraft market survey firm Teal Group (2016.7), the high-altitude long-endurance UAV application market in the communication field is expected to grow to USD 1.5 billion in 2025 to exceed the agriculture field (USD 1.36 billion) and to be close to the construction field (USD 1.65 billion).

Successful flight of stratospheric vehicle for over 22 hours

EAV-1 can fly only for 1.5 hours when using the conventional battery, but KARI applied low-pressure hydrogen-generated PEM-type fuel cell to fly it for 4.5 hours in October 2010. As a hybrid EAV, EAV-2 set a record of 22 hours and 10 minutes of continuous flight in August 2012 by using fuel cells and batteries at night and solar energy during the day. Afterward, KARI developed a high-altitude vehicle by simplifying the power system with solar cells and batteries. Vehicles operating in a stratospheric environment with low density and temperature require ultra-light airframe structure, low-temperature and low-density propulsion system, solar and battery power, propeller design in the low Reynolds number range, and flexible automatic aircraft control. Therefore, KARI secured the related technology, applied the T-800 class domestic composite material to the EAV for the first time, and used the Mylar material with excellent low-temperature characteristics and tensile ability to realize an ultra-lightweight fuselage structure. It also developed low-speed, high-torque BLDC motor and motor controller operating in an environment of –70℃. Moreover, considering the stratospheric atmosphere where motor characteristics and density are reduced to 1/14, high-efficiency propellers suitable for low Reynolds number were designed, and major systems such as flight control computers, atmospheric measuring devices, and control surface actuators were configured for redundancy to enable safe automatic flight even in case of emergency.

World’s third successful stratospheric flight

In October 2013, EAV-2H, an extension of the EAV-2, recorded 25 hours and 40 minutes of continuous flight, the longest in Korea. It also set a record for a domestic UAV's flight altitude by flying at an altitude of 10 km in September 2014. As a long-endurance, solar-powered stratospheric full-scale vehicle, the EAV-3 uses single-crystal solar cells and lithium-ion batteries as power source. It flew at an altitude of 14.2 km in August 2015 and an altitude of 18.5 km, which was uncontrolled airspace, for 90 minutes in August 2016; thus demonstrating the feasibility of solar-powered UAV. This achievement was the third in the world after the United States and the United Kingdom. Since then, KARI has been developing high-performance battery packs and ultra-lightweight, high-rigidity structure technology that enables flying at high altitudes. It has also improved communication performance to transmit HD images up to 50km distance in real time. A flight test conducted on August 16~18, 2020 recorded 53 hours of continuous flight, the longest record in Korea, including 16 hours at an altitude of 12~18 km in the stratosphere. Moreover, a vehicle equipped with a domestic lithium-sulfur battery flew at an altitude of 22 km on August 30, 2020, setting the record for the highest flight altitude of a domestic UAV. The solar-powered stratospheric EAV will enter the stage of commercialization through the development of special mission equipment such as cameras, meteorological devices, stratospheric communication equipment, and batteries with high energy density. The Solar powered UAV can remain in the stratosphere at the altitude of 12 km or more for months and carry out the mission of monitoring natural disasters or illegal fishing in real time, communication relay, and particulate matter or weather observation to supplement artificial satellites in an economical, eco-friendly way; hence the heavy investments in developing future leading technology. KARI plans to continue to enhance the performance of EAV-3 by utilizing the high-performance battery pack and solar cell. It will remain in the stratosphere at an altitude of 12 km or higher for days and months to carry out various pilot missions, such as collection of ground observation and atmospheric data, real-time image, communication relay, and weather observation as part of the program to commercialize the high-altitude solar-powered UAV technology. Moreover, it plans to cooperate closely with industries in Korea by sharing the results of this test flight to accelerate the development of the Korean model of high-performance batteries for high altitude.
  • Full width20m
  • Takeoff weight66kg
  • Flight duration53 hours
  • Flying altitudeMax. 22 km

10High-Speed Vertical Takeoff and Landing UAV

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Development of the world’s second tiltrotor aircraft

A tiltrotor aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing and high-speed flight has the rotor positioned vertically like a helicopter during takeoff, changing to horizontal position during forward flight to increase speed. It combines the advantages of a fixed- wing aircraft and a helicopter. KARI developed TR-100, the world’s second tiltrotor UAV after the United States, after 10 years of research and development beginning 2002. Since the tiltrotor aircraft can fly more than twice as fast as a helicopter and at a high altitude, it can effectively perform missions such as surveillance, search, reconnaissance, transport, and communication relay over a large area. It is suitable for Korea, where it is difficult to secure a runway due to the mountainous terrain and the sea on three sides, and can be used in various missions such as coastal and island reconnaissance, forest fire, traffic monitoring, and weather observation as well as military use such as reconnaissance of enemy sites. The cutting-edge technology is also expected to be used as the platform for private aircraft that can be operated without a runway.
As for performance, TR-100 has maximum speed of 500㎞/h, mission radius of 200㎞, maximum endurance of 5 hours, and payload of 90 ㎏. It uses a 550-hp turboshaft engine and consists of the aircraft, communication, control, and ground support systems. The aircraft is equipped with day and night surveillance cameras as mission equipment, with flight control computers and navigation equipment installed as main avionics equipment. The ground control system orders surveillance and reconnaissance flight to a specific area within a 200 km radius, and the onboard computer interfaced to the navigation system manipulates it to fly automatically to the planned point points and perform the mission. The day and night surveillance cameras mounted on the aircraft capture images of the target from an altitude of 3 km, and the communication system transmits information to the ground in real time. The ground control receives these images and analyzes the disaster area or the situation of the enemy. Since there are no cases of commercial use of tiltrotor UAV in the world yet, successful commercialization is expected to give an early lead in the cutting-edge tiltrotor UAV market. Therefore, KARI is continuing its efforts to commercialize TR-60, which is a commercial model for the tiltrotor aircraft.

Successful development of TR-60, a commercial model of TR-100

From 2008 to 2011, KARI developed TR-60, a high-performance, low-weight, low-cost commercial tiltrotor UAV with target performance of 5 hours' flight time, maximum speed of 250 km/h, mission radius of 60 km, and payload of 20 kg. As a result, it succeeded in automatic takeoff and landing and transition flight. In August 2011, it signed a technology transfer and joint development agreement with Korean Air and jointly developed the TR-60 class tiltrotor for two years. TR-60 can operate much faster at a higher altitude than a helicopter, and it can be effectively applied to surveillance, search, utilization, transport, communication, and relay in a wide area. KARI has improved the performance of the tiltrotor UAV in terms of airtime, endurance, flying range, maximum speed, etc. and developing the technologies to take off vertically from a moving object such as a vehicle or a ship to broaden its application. The tiltrotor technology is more useful for manned aircraft. Since it can vertically take off and land and fly at high speed, it has high potential to be used as a personal aerial vehicle (PAV) in Korea where runways are scarce. It is expected to be used as the next-generation vertical takeoff/landing aircraft being developed in the United States, Europe, and China. KARI is currently supporting military sector in feasibility study for the next-generation manned high-speed VTOL program.

TR-100

  • Takeoff weightMaximum of 995 kg
  • Maximum speed500km/h
  • Maximum altitude6km
  • Full length5m

TR-60

  • Takeoff weightMaximum of 200 kg
  • Maximum speed240km/h
  • Maximum altitude4km
  • Full length3m

11Automatic takeoff and landing of a tiltrotor UAV from ship

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World’s first automatic shipboard takeoff and landing of a tiltrotor UAV

KARI had succeeded in the automatic shipboard takeoff and landing of a 200kg-class tiltrotor UAV (TR-60) under the support of the MOTIE on 7th, July in 2017. It was the first time in Korea that a UAV succeeded in the automatic takeoff and landing on a moving ship and it was also the first time in the world that a tiltrotor UAV succeeded in the automatic takeoff and landing on a moving ship. The successful flight was composed of automatically taking off from a vessel (the training ship Badaro provided by the Korea Coast Guard) advancing at 10 knots; flying off the ship; and then safely landing on the advancing vessel again. Unlike the landing on the ground, an advancing ship makes an environment that is unfavorable for taking off and landing due to the irregular shaking of the deck caused by waves and the unstable wake induced in the landing area due to ship movement. Despite such a bad condition, the TR-60 succeeded in the demonstration of automatic takeoff and landing on a moving ship for 10 consecutive times.
The key technology is the precise guidance and landing control of the UAV to the landing spot on the moving ship deck. To accomplish this, it was necessary to accurately measure the position of the UAV relative to the landing point on the ship which are moving independently, and precisely guide the UAV so that the relative position becomes as close to 0 as possible at the moment of landing. The accurate measurement (at the error level of 5cm) of the relative positions was implemented with the RTK-GPS (Real Time Kinematics-GPS) technology. The success of this flight test confirmed the possibility of utilizing tiltrotor UAVs for various marine applications such as fishery detection, monitoring of illegal fishing and marine safety in addition to ground operations.
  • Maximum speed240km/h
  • Takeoff weightMaximum 200 kg
  • Vehicle length3 m (Wingspan: 3 m)
  • Flight duration 5 hours
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