Amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Israel Aerospace Industries has signed a joint-venture agreement with South Korea’s Hankuk Carbon to develop and manufacture unmanned aerial vehicles with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities for both military and civilian markets.The signing ceremony to establish the new joint company in South Korea, called Korea Aviation Technologies (KAT), was held in Seoul last week, during the International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition 2017.Shaul Shahar, IAI executive vice president and general manager of IAI’s Military Aircraft Group, said in a statement, “IAI is excited about the establishment of the joint company. Hankuk Carbon brings to the venture strong manufacturing capabilities and know-how.Together with IAI’s UAVs and aircraft-design capabilities, the new company will be able to meet Korean military and civilian VTOL requirements.”
IAI and Hankuk Carbon have been co-developing VTOL unmanned aerial vehicles for several years. Last year, they signed an agreement to establish the joint venture in South Korea. The new company is expected to develop and manufacture the next generation of UAVs, capable of handling an approximate take-off weight of 300 to 450 kg.Hankuk Carbon CEO Moon-Soo Cho said, “Both companies have established a firm relationship within a short period of time, and the result will be passed on to the HC-IAI joint venture.The UAV system with innovative hybrid propulsion system produced under KAT’s name will set up a new standard of the UAV industry.Also, Hankuk Carbon’s composite material and aircraft components business will create a synergistic effect with KAT.”In 2015, Hankuk Carbon displayed the FE-Panther. The 67-kg. front-engine, hybrid VTOL UAV is powered by lithium-polymer batteries during take-off and landing and by a gasoline engine in the cruise phase of flight. With an eight-hour flight time endurance, carrying a 6-kg. payload, it can fly a distance of more than 130 km. at a maximum speed of 100 kph.The UAV was damaged during the landing of its December maiden flight in South Chungcheong Province. Changes were then made to the fuselage, wings and propulsion system.