The South Korean military announced on Monday the signing of a contract to purchase low-noise hydrogen fuel cell drones for covert surveillance and reconnaissance missions after a six-month test period. Hydrogen fuel drones have greater mission time and range compared to drones powered by Lithium polymer (LiPo). They also make less noise compared to gasoline-powered air vehicles.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) stated that the drones will be produced by Doosan Mobility Innovation, a drone solution provider, for 8.31 billion South Korean won ($7.3 million) and will begin pilot operations in November.
“The rapid pilot acquisition project contributes to the development of advanced technology and military use by rapidly applying private new technologies to the military for the past year and inducing private investments by private companies. I hope that a lot of companies with technological prowess will participate so that we can apply various advanced technologies to the military in the future,” Ho-cheon Choi, Director of the Future Electric Power Business Division of DAPA, said.
The project is expected to create new demand in the field of defense by establishing hydrogen infrastructure — such as storage, transport, and charging — and expanding application to power sources of various weapons systems such as large drones, vehicles, and armored vehicles in the future, the translated statement revealed.
South Korean Drone Development
South Korea’s military has been looking to improve its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by developing new features and integrating new technology.
Last week, the South Korean Agency for Defense Development announced that it developed a technology that allows UAVs to autonomously avoid threats and obstacles when flying to their destinations. The drone is said to use a sensor to collect external information and generate an algorithm to navigate, automatically following a safe path.
In April, South Korean Army Chief of Staff Gen. Nam Yeong-shin revealed that the army is aiming for early deployment of the drone robot-based (drone bot) combat system. The South Korean Army was also reported to have ordered “suicide drones” and small surveillance drones in December last year.
North Korea has also successfully tested unmanned reconnaissance and attack drones according to reports. The attack drones are said to be able to perform “precision suicide attacks” on targets, conduct reconnaissance of major South Korean military facilities, and perform “pincer attacks” on these facilities.