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LIG Nex1 to develop AI-based underwater obstacle detection technology for unmanned surface vehicles

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : January 18, 2023, 16:35 Updated : January 18, 2023, 16:35

[Courtesy of LIG Nex 1]

SEOUL -- LIG Nex1, a defense contractor in South Korea, has teamed up with a state-run research institute specializing in robotics to open a joint laboratory for artificial intelligence-based underwater obstacle detection technology. Through the research center, the defense contractor can secure various data for unmanned surface vehicles designed for naval operations.
 
Commercialization of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) is gaining momentum in South Korea to detect North Korea's provocations and monitor illegal fishing activities by Chinese boats. LIG Nex1 has showcased South Korea's first USV called "Haegeom" (Sea Sort) equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) and a surveillance camera. The eight-meter-long boat is capable of sailing at a maximum speed of 30 knots (54 kilometers) per hour and engaging in combat using a machine gun.
 
LIG Nex1 has agreed to partner with the Korea Institute of Robot and Convergence (KIRO) to open a joint laboratory. The two sides will cooperate to collect AI data for marine obstacle detection while operating USVs. Obstacle avoidance technology-related research will be also carried out.
 
"By developing AI-based marine obstacle detection technology for USV operation, we hope to contribute to South Korea's self-defense technology," LIG Nex1 official Lee Seung-yong said in a statement on January 18.
 
The inter-Korean maritime border has long been a flash point between the two Koreas. A South Korean warship sank in March 2010. Seoul concluded that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the warship Cheonan. Pyongyang denied its involvement but the incident froze cross-border exchanges and trade. In November the same year, North Korea shelled a front-line island, killing four South Koreans and briefly triggering concerns of a full-scale conflict.

The technology could also help South Korea's coast guard to watch illegal fishing by Chinese fishermen on Korea's territorial water. Coastguard operations were risky as Chinese fishermen often used steel pipes, knives and other weapons, leading to violent clashes.  

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