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KARI OPPAV (prototype)

Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) Optionally Piloted Personal Air Vehicle (OPPAV) full scale eVTOL technology demonstrator prototype aircraft

 

OPPAV (prototype)
Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)
Daejeon, Taejon-jikhalsi, South Korea
www.kari.re.kr

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) established in 1989, is a government-funded research institute in the aerospace industry and is located in Daejeon, Taejon-jikhalsi, South Korea. Its main office and laboratories are located in Daejeon and the flight test center is located in Goheung. The company manufacturers space launch vehicles, a lunar mission orbitor, satellites, airplances, helicopters, electric-powered helicopters, air ships, UAVs, launch control centers, launch sites,  testing runways, unmanned aerial vehicle traffice mangement systems, Korean Positioning System and more. (Image credit: Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

Since 2002, KARI has developed various types of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), such as the KARI tiltrotors — the TR100 with a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) and the TR60 at 200 kg (440 lb), a ducted propeller design with a MTOW of 40 kg (88 lb), and a quad-tilt prop (QTP) UAS. The QTP UAV, with a MTOW of 48 kg (106 lb) and a Vmax of 170 km/h (106 mph) is fully electric, with a hybrid variant as well. A video of the QTP UAV can be seen in this YouTube video.

In 2019, the eVTOL technology demonstrator program was launched and funded by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE). KARI leads the research and development program to develop a one-seat class electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technology demonstrator prototype aircraft  for advanced air mobility (AAM). The two ministries will spend a total of $44.8 billion KRW ($38 million USD) (January 2020 prices) to develop the aircraft by the end of 2023.  

The OPPAV is an eVTOL full-scale technology demonstrator prototype aircraft
The OPPAV is a remote controlled one passenger eVTOL full-scale technology demonstrator prototype aircraft. OPPAV is an acronym for Optionally Piloted Personal Air Vehicle. The OPPAV is based on KARI's previous VTOL UAV development experiences. The aircraft is remotely piloted and has made multiple test flights in secrecy and flown publicly. Three full-scale units were made. The first public flight of the OPPAV uncrewed eVTOL full-scale technology demonstrator was made on Nov. 3, 2023 at the Goheung Aviation Test Center in South Korea. Other flights were made with the prototype in 2023 but were not made for the public. Please note that the full-scale prototype has clear windows and the subscale technology demonstrator has painted on windows.

One aircraft prototype was made for use as a static test structure. The other two prototype aircraft are being used for flight testing. Extreme load conditions were made on the static test aircraft to verify the structural safety and soundness of the aircraft. Wind tunnel testing of a scaled powered model was successfully completed in July 2020, in the KARI Low Speed Wind Tunnel (LSWT). Tethered flight tests were made in 2022 before untethered flight tests took place in 2023.

The cruise speed of the aircraft is 200 km/h (124 mph) and has a maximum cruise speed of 240 km/h (149 mph). The range of the OPPAV is 60 km (37 m). The empty weight is 550 kg (1,213), has a maximum payload weight of 100 kg (220 lb) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 650 kg (1,433 lb). The shape of the windows can be seen on the aircraft but the window area is opaque as no passengers are being used for the first test flights.

The prototype has four tilt-propellers and four VTOL-only propellers mounted at the ends of booms. The booms are mounted on the bottom of the aircraft's one high main wing and are perpendicular to the wing. There are eight electric motors powering the propellers. The main wing has both ailerons and flaps. The aircraft is powered by Litium-ion battery packs. The interior and exterior of the aircraft is made from carbon fiber composite material for a high strength and low weight ratio.  The length of the aircraft is 6.2 m (20 ft) and has a width of 7.0 m (23 ft). The aircraft has a conventional tail and and has fixed tricycle wheeled landing gear.  The aircraft looks like a small general aviation aircraft.

Scaling this up to an operational five seat eVTOL with the same configuration, KARI estimates its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) would be 2,500 kg (5,512 lb) and have an predicted cruise speed of 300 km/h (186 mph).

Kari OPPAV static ground testing

Kari OPPAV static ground testing

Kari OPPAV flying test with a safety rope

Kari OPPAV flying test with a safety rope

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: One passenger eVTOL technology demonstrator prototype aircraft
  • Piloting: Remote piloting
  • Capacity: No passengers or pilot
  • Cruise speed: 200 km/h (124 mph)
  • Maximum cruise speed: 240 km/h (149 mph)
  • Range: 60 km (37 m)
  • Empty weight: 550 kg (1,213)
  • Maximum payload weight: 100 kg (220 lb)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 650 kg (1,433 lb)
  • Propellers: 4 tilt-propellers, 4 VTOL-only propellers
  • Electric motors: 8 electric motors
  • Power source: Litium-ion battery packs
  • Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
  • Length: 6.2 m (20 ft)
  • Width: 7.0 m (23 ft)
  • Windows: Typical general aviation sized windows
  • Wings: 1 high main wing
  • Tail: 1 standard conventional tail
  • Landing gear: Fixed wheeled landing gear
  • Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers (or ducted fans) and motors on the aircraft so if one or more propellers (ducted fans) or motors fail, the other working propellers (or ducted fans) and motors can safely land the aircraft. There are also redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft. The aircraft can land conventionally on a runway or road if the VTOL propellers are inoperable.

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