| World powers have long wanted to develop airplanes that would not need a runway to take off or land. Even the most sophisticated fighter jets become useless if their runways are destroyed. Airfields built on a wide open area are the primary target for enemy attacks and are weak in defense. Helicopters, which were developed in the later days of World War II, overcame the limits of location in taking off and landing but have not been able to transcend their nascent limit of weaker combat abilities and maneuverability.
Britain was the leader in developing vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) airplanes. In October 1960, the country successfully developed the Harrier series, which was armed with a thrust vectoring system capable of moving the powerful jet engine`s nozzles vertically and horizontally. The Harriers were deployed to active duty nine years later. The aircraft proved their worth during the 1982 Falklands War, 13,000 kilometers away from Britain. Argentine`s home turf advantage was not a crucial factor because of the Sea Harriers, which was able to carry out operations by taking off from and landing on light aircraft carriers.
Reportedly, Korean Air successfully conducted a test flight of its unmanned VTOL aircraft named KUS-TR. The company claims that the aircraft was the world`s first practical unmanned VTOL model whose propellers shift vertically and horizontally. It is surprising that a Korean company succeeded in developing the technology. The United States, which already had military VTOL aircrafts and many unmanned aircrafts, has stopped developing the technology after a 2006 crash during a test flight. Even Russia and Israel, a powerhouse in unmanned aircraft market, have failed to develop the technology.
At present, however, there seems to be little demand for unmanned VTOL aircrafts. Without demand, there are no expected gains from the development. A KUS-TR is said to cost over 15 billion won (14 million U.S. dollars). I wonder how the Korean technological innovation will contribute to the development of the mankind and applied fields. As the aircraft does not need a runway, it can have an airport in downtown areas of major cities if it addresses the noise issue during takeoff and landing. When will the day come?
Editorial Writer Ha Tae-won (email@example.com)