OK Drone: Vietnam Enters the UAV Market

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OK Drone: Vietnam Enters the UAV Market

Vietnam has tested its first indigenous drones. Will they be used for military purposes?

Vietnam flight tested six indigenously made Unmanned Aerials Vehicles (UAVs) over the weekend, Xinhua News Agency reported.

“After three days of tests, from May 17-19, in Da Lat city and Lac Duong district of Lam Dong province, six vehicles made by the Vietnam Space Technology Institute, under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST), successfully made 37 flights,” Xinhua News reported, citing local media outlets.

The tests reflect an effort by Vietnam to penetrate the UAV market, with many of its neighbors, including China and Japan, beefing up their own UAV forces in recent years.

Earlier this month the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) had announced that it had built five indigenous UAVs, the first of their kind for Vietnam. The first of the drones—AV.UAV.MS1, AV.UAV.S1, AV.UAV.S2, AV.UAV.S3 and AV.UAV.S4— was initially tested in early May. The Vietnamese scientists who built the drones began researching them back in 2008, and the project was picked up by the state in 2011.

According to Vietnamese news media, the drones have a weight of 4 kg to 170 kg and wingspans ranging from 1.2 to 5 meters. The smallest of these “can fly at 70 kph [kilometers per hour] within a radius of 2 km and at a maximum altitude of 200 m,” while the biggest one “can fly at 180 kph, within a radius of 100 km and at an elevation of 3,000 meters. It can continuously fly for 6 hours in both daytime and nighttime.”

The unmanned aircraft are equipped with  cameras, spectrometers and other devices and will be “used for [the] supervision of environmental natural resources in difficult direct approach territories; observation, communication and seashore rescue; exploration of natural resources, control of forest fire[s], and to follow the situation of national electricity system and transport,” VAST’s website has said.

It was not the only scientific breakthrough Hanoi achieved this month, with the country also launching its first remote sensing satellite, the VNRED Sat-1. The satellite was built largely with French funds, Xinhua reported at the time of the launch. Vietnam had previously launched two telecommunication satellites, the first in 2008 and another one last year.

The flight range of some of the drones tested this month can be extended using guiding satellites, according to local media reports.

Although the UAVs are ostensibly only for civilian purposes, their tests were monitored by leaders from the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of National Defense.

Alongside the domestic effort to build UAVs, Vietnam is looking to purchase them abroad. Last week it was announced that Vietnam would purchase UAVs from Belarus during Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to that country. Few details were provided about the type of drones involved in the deal.