KAI to adopt collaborative robots for production of fighter jet KF-21

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : March 15, 2024, 17:20 Updated : June 25, 2024, 16:43
Courtesy of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration
[Courtesy of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration]

SEOUL -- South Korea's major aircraft maker, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), will incorporate collaborative robots into the production process of the country's homemade fighter jet KF-21. Developed by domestic robot platform company Rainbow Robotics, these robots will be utilized for drilling tasks in the aircraft's fuselage structure.

The KF-21 project started in 2010 in a bid to replace the country's aging fleet of U.S.-made F-4 and F-5 fighters. According to specifications outlined by KAI, the fighter jet's maximum speed is Mach 1.81, with a range of 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles). South Korea aims to produce 120 new fighter jets through the KF-21 project by 2032.

Rainbow Robotics said on March 15 that the company partnered with KAI for the establishment of an automatic drilling system for KF-21. Rainbow Robotics will deploy its robots to create holes in the aircraft's body, which is a crucial step in ensuring strength and durability of the fighter jet. These holes are essential for connecting ribs, stringers, and other parts to the fuselage. The contract is worth 4.15 billion won ($3.1 million).

As more businesses in South Korea aim to reduce operating costs, the adoption of cooperative robots is gaining momentum, replacing human workers in various tasks. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) predicts that South Korea's market for collaborative robots will grow at an average annual rate of 44.1percent, reaching $36.6 million by 2025.

According to market research firm Grandview Research, the global market for cooperative robots is expected to reach about  $1.6 billion by 2023.
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