Korean Air has successfully demonstrated the first flight of its the KUS-VH 500MD unmanned helicopter, according to officials.
The initial flight lasted for about 30 minutes, completely unmanned, at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s aviation centre located in South Jeolla Province.
It took off 32 feet (10 meters) from the ground and hovering, which they say proves the performance and safety of the unmanned flight control system.
Korean Air has been developing unmanned aerial vehicles for 500MD helicopters through development tasks of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy since 2014.
After clearing this hurdle, the company, part of a state-led defence program, say they now plan to export the new aircraft in the rapidly growing international market.
The chopper is equipped with advanced pilot systems, including an aviation control computer, integrated navigation, propulsion and electro-mechanic rotor controllers.
It can stay in the air for six hours and carry up to 970 pounds (440 km).
Unmanned helicopters can serve both military and civilian purposes, supplying cargo to battlefields or delivering packages.
Retired models can also be easily armed, making them a cost-effective air asset.
Korean Air says that with further development, the helicopter will be upgraded to carry out missions including day and night time surveillance.
Feedback from customers until the end of 2021 will provide them with information to update flight range, altitude and other performance factors.
Korean Air said it obtained a special airworthiness certification from the Defence Acquisition Program Administration for the latest flight after a series of remote manoeuvering assessments and aviation safety tests.
Korean Air in 1976 was the first in the country to start producing 500MD helicopters for military use.
It has since supplied a number of aircraft to the Korean military, such as the F-5 fighter jet and UH-60 helicopter fleet.