Korea wants to develop software for drones

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Korea wants to develop software for drones

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Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, are emerging as a blue ocean business in the IT industry, and the Korean government wants to boost R&D in developing software for drones used for public purposes.

The technologies will be used to monitor illegal fishing by Chinese boats in Korean waters and oversee scenes of disasters.

This is part of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning’s 14 new creative economy R&D projects that start this year. Of the 17.7 billion won ($16 million) budget for all 14 projects, almost 15 percent, or 2.6 billion won, will be dedicated to three drone software development projects.

By investing in software, the government hopes to make drones a new area of industrial growth.

The government aims to complete development of the software by the end of this year and test the system on regular drones early next year. It wants to ultimately use the software in a locally developed tilt-rotor UAV, a kind of high-speed drone that takes off and lands vertically, scheduled to be developed by 2020.

The software will be jointly developed with the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). It will control surveillance cameras and sensors on the drone’s body, analyzing and transmitting data to a main control room.

The software will automatically identify illegal fishing boats by analyzing the captured video and comparing data with lists of Korean fishing vessels.

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The ICT Ministry also begins developing two additional types of software for drones, one for natural disaster rescues and another for forest surveillance.

The disaster rescue software will be able to analyze 3-D geographic information. The forest surveillance system will feature an infrared sensor to locate specific parts of forests that were damaged by diseases and pests.

Korea hopes to expand the local drone industry’s hardware and software, which is extremely small compared to the UAV industry in the United States. It is with drones used by governments rather than individuals.

According to a recent report by the Institute for ICT Promotion of Korea, more than 960 models of civilian drones are produced by 270 companies in 57 countries. However, only 11 models have been commercialized or are still being developed by four Korean companies.

There were 380 drones registered with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport for civilian operations last year, up from 170 units in 2012. The drones are used for purposes like spraying agricultural pesticides and taking photos and videos.

“IT-related technologies are important in drone projects because the software that controls the drone’s movement and telecommunication technologies account for more than half of the whole research process,” Moon Seung-wook, director general of the System Industry Policy Department at the Industry Ministry said at a press briefing. “So the government’s civilian-use drone project can be a creative economy project providing new business opportunities to local aerospace and IT industries.”

According to Teal Group, military drones accounted for 89 percent of all drones produced last year.

However, aerospace industry analysts forecast in the report that the demand for civilian drones will continuously rise over the next decade to at least 14 percent.

In the civilian sector, the agriculture industry is estimated to have the highest demand for drones, followed by the public sector, which will drones for safety and surveillance purposes, as well as individual hobbyists and entertainment industry, which use drones for photographs and video.

BY KIM JI-YOON [kim.jiyoon@joongang.co.kr]



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