Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has inked an agreement with Northrop Grumman to cooperate on vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial system development.

The domestically-developed drones will be deployed on naval destroyers and coast guard patrol ships for various missions, such as surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition.

Northrop has extensive experience in VTOL drone technology. Its MQ-8 Fire Scout VTOL system is currently operated by the US Navy.

State-backed KAI expects the collaboration to reduce the project’s risk and duration.

“We are concentrating on developing next-generation UAV technology with the goal of leading the future unmanned era,” KAI Future Convergence Technology Director Kim Ji-hong said.

North’s Drone Raid

The agreement comes weeks after North Korean drones breached South Korean airspace in December and returned safely despite a five-hour operation to neutralize them.

The South Korean military apologized for its failure, blaming the drones’ small size.

The breach forced the South Korean military to initiate an internal inquiry, with findings to be disclosed in parliament next week.

“Northrop Grumman has consistently led the market in the field of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles, and we expect that cooperation with KAI will dramatically improve the ROK Navy’s maritime surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities,” Northrop Vice President Richard Sullivan said.