On Thursday, South Korea’s defense procurement agency announced that exploratory development of an unmanned surveillance ground vehicle has been successfully completed.
The development of the 6 × 6 Unmanned Surveillance Vehicle (USV) was led by the Defense Development Agency (ADD) affiliated with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). Hanwha Defense is responsible for developing the unmanned wheeled vehicle and integrating the communication and surveillance systems into the 6 × 6 platform.
It is the first time globally that a medium to large-sized unmanned ground combat vehicle enters the systems development phase.
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“This unmanned surveillance vehicle can be used to remotely drive mechanized units over a variety of terrain, including tactical roads, off-road vehicles 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.”
USV exploratory development began in 2018 with a focus on testing and assessing operational capabilities, as well as the readiness of key technologies. During the latest field trials conducted between last December and February, the unmanned robotic system successfully met key operational requirements sufficiently to be deployed in the military.
In March 2021, the USV reached Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 for key unmanned technologies, including autonomous driving, obstacle detection / avoidance and surveillance. TRL 6 is the key condition for moving forward with large-scale system development.
Powered by hybrid power systems, the USV can operate either by remote control or autonomously. The vehicle is equipped with sophisticated unmanned functions such as follow-me, travel path control, obstacle detection / avoidance and route planning in case of loss of communication.
The vehicle is armed with a machine gun mounted on a remote controlled weapon station developed by Hanwha Defense. The platform can be conveniently reconfigured for other missions by installing various equipment such as a sensing device and a drone for the communication relay.
The successful development of the unmanned tactical ground vehicle is a key milestone for Hanwha Defense’s strong portfolio of unmanned ground systems, as the company has participated in at least 15 state research and development projects focused on unmanned and robotics programs since 2006.
In 2019, Hanwha Defense completed the development of a 4 × 4 multi-purpose unmanned land vehicle, the first of its kind in South Korea, to support infantry troops in a variety of combat situations. The 1.5-tonne vehicle runs on electricity to carry out multiple missions, such as surveillance, logistical transport, casualty evacuation, and combat.
A new 6 × 6 version, dubbed Intelligence UGV, will be unveiled in July ahead of pilot operations in the Army’s drone-bot combat unit. The smart UGV will show improved performance, as it would have a load capacity of 500kg and a cruising range of 100km.
Hanwha Defense also takes the helm of the development of a small unmanned robot for the detection and disposal of explosive devices (EODD). The robot is the first of its kind in the world capable of detecting both land mines and improvised explosive devices.