Shown above is an unmanned surveillance vehicle. South Korea’s military agency has joined hands with Hanwha Defense to develop a big-sized unmanned combat vehicle for the first time in the world. Photo courtesy of Hanwha Defense

ADD, Hanwha Defense will lead South Korea’s military project

South Korea’s defense procurement agency announced on April 22 that it had successfully completed the exploratory development of an unmanned surveillance vehicle (USV).

The Agency for Defense Development (ADD) has teamed up with Hanwha Defense to build the 6×6 USV and integrate communication/surveillance systems into it.

It marks the first time in the world that a mid- to large-sized unmanned ground combat vehicle enters the systems development stage.

And Hanwha Defense has a track record of developing a 4×4 multi-purpose unmanned ground vehicle weighing 1.5 tons in 2009 for the first time in the country.

The new 6×6 USV, which will be unveiled halfway through this year, is set to have a payload capacity of 500 kilograms and a cruising radius of 100 kilometers.

“This unmanned surveillance vehicle can be used to remotely lead mechanized units across a variety of terrains, including tactical roads, off-road, and unpaved roads,” a Hanwha Defense spokesman said.

“The vehicle is designed to conduct many different operations such as reconnaissance, target guidance, engagement with the enemy.”

The exploratory development of the USV started in 2008 to test and evaluate operational capabilities as well as the readiness of key technologies, according to Hanwha.

The recent field trials, which finished this February, showed that Hanwha’s unmanned robotics system met key operational requirements to be developed in the military.

Last month, the USV reached technology readiness level six regarding such significant unmanned technologies as self-driving, obstacle detection/avoidance and surveillance.

Meeting the level six is one of the crucial prerequisites to go ahead with full-scale systems development. Powered by hybrid power systems, the USV is to work either by remote control or autonomously.

Hanwha said that the vehicle features sophisticated unmanned functions such as follow-me, travel-route control, obstacle detection/avoidance, and path planning in the case of communication loss.

It is also armed with a machine gun mounted on a remote-controlled weapon station developed by Hanwha Defense.

In fact, Hanwha has proactively taken part in state projects _ it has been part of at least 15 state R&D projects related to unmanned and robotics programs since 2006.