Korean Air’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), KUS-FT, which has adopted the latest automatic landing technology, has been recognized as one of the “2021 Top 15 Industrial Technology Achievements,” by The National Academy of Engineering of Korea (NAEK).

NAEK is a research institute that shines light on engineering contributions toward domestic engineering development, and backs relevant engineering projects. Since 2006, the institute has annually recognized industrial technology achievements based on social and economic contributions, and future potential.

The recognized tactical UAV, KUS-FT, with dimensions of 4.5 m (width), 3.7 m (length) and 0.9 m (height), became the first domestic UAV to receive airworthiness certification in 2016. The first mass production of the KUS-FT was completed in December 2020, and it is currently being used by the Republic of Korea’s military. The entire process from takeoff, flight to landing, is automated, and reconnaissance missions can be carried out for 24 consecutive hours when two UAVs are operated simultaneously.

The KUS-FT is equipped with world-class autonomous landing technology, and may be easily transported by ground vehicles, and then launched by a mobile launch pad. As a result, operational safety and convenience are maximized, enhancing surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the Korean military.

Korean Air is also developing an advanced “lift & cruise” UAV, the KUS-VS. “Lift & cruise” technology takes advantage of independent thrusters for cruise and for lift. During vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), the UAV uses lift thrust powered by vertically-mounted rotors, and once cruise altitude is reached, the horizontally-mounted rotors provide propulsion thrust. This technology allows for a faster cruising speed and higher maximum flight range than helicopters. The airline plans to later propose the KUS-VS to the military as a next-generation division-level UAV.

Korean Air’s aerospace business division pioneers the Korean domestic UAV industry with its technology prowess and insight. It possesses a wide range of UAVs including 5-ton high-performing strategic UAVs, tiltrotor UAVs, next-generation stealth UAVs, multipurpose unmanned helicopters and hybrid drones. In addition, Korean Air continues to develop infrastructure such as a traffic management system for UAVs and future urban air mobility (UAM).