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South Korea’s ‘Grand Challenge’ unites businesses to commercialise flying taxis by 2025

By Chris Stonor

The Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Grand Challenge Korea Industry Day hosted by MOLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport) and organised by KARI (Korea Aerospace Research Institute) was held last week (Thursday, February 17th) at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, to unveil the South Korean government’s plan to commercialise flying taxis or UAM in central cities by 2025, reports koreaherald.com.

This Ministry-led program aims to bring together industry players including aircraft developers, airspace designers and air traffic management operators with the goal of developing and operating air vehicles or airspace management services in the UAM ecosystem.

The K-UAM Grand Challenge program is joined by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute and 124 companies including Hyundai Motor Group and Korean Air who are part of UAM Team Korea. Also participating are foreign UAM stakeholders like Joby Aviation, Volocopter and Skyport, as well as global institutions like NASA who will lead trials on capabilities and readiness of vehicles and systems that could revolutionise mobility.

Hwang Seong-kyu, Second Vice Transport Minister, commented, “Through the K-UAM Grand Challenge, we will gain practical proof of validated operation for UAM and commercialisation of UAM services. Such outcomes will create a new, competitive and international traffic management system in Korea.”

According to the ministry, it plans to evaluate the safety of UAM aircraft, establish technical standards, demonstrate operation of Vertiports and discuss the budget and cost liability of K-UAM services through a demonstration test in Goheung, South Jeolla Province by 2024. In 2020, the government selected Goheung’s state-run aircraft performance test centre, located on a site spanning over 380 square kilometres, as the test bed.  Industry insiders say the government‘s drive can become a catalyst for the development of emerging air transportation systems.

One told The Korea Herald, “In a country where no certified UAM aircrafts exist, companies and authorities here hope to see the K-UAM Grand Challenge shift the timeframe and speed up validating UAM commercialisation.”

According to the Transport Ministry, it will prioritise the introduction of air medical services, such as patient ambulance transportation and cargo delivery to underserviced communities, starting with gradually replacing helicopter demand with UAM aircrafts in the defence sector. They also want to develop tourism UAM services and set up specialist theme parks with help of local governments and public institutions to raise public awareness of the industry.

Nah Jin-hang, Director of Drone Transport Division at the Transport Ministry, said, “Our goal is to check validation of safety for UAM operations. It is necessary to check if UAM aircrafts can fly with other aircrafts and drones. That’s why we need to also establish related legislations, make legal revisions, and create related licenses.” He added, “Once all those processes are completed, it will increase public acceptance of this new concept vehicle.”

According to the concept of operation unveiled last Thursday, pilots will be onboard during UAM aircrafts‘ flight through pre-designated and fixed corridors. In 2025, four Vertiports are expected to be set up at public buildings such as firefighting stations and hospitals with two purpose-navigation routes. They will run 11 times a day with a cost of 3,000 won (USD2.50) per kilometre per person. The number of expected Vertiports will expand to 52 with some 203 fixed routes, running more than 43,000 times a day at a rate of 1,300 won per kilometre per person. This event was attended by government ministries, academics, research circles, companies and organisations involved in domestic and overseas.

(News Source: http://www.koreaherald.com)

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