A consortium led by mobile operator, SK Telecom (SKT), is collaborating with South Korea’s government of Jeju to begin commercial eVTOL flights in 2025, reports totaltele.com.

SKT announced last week a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, as it moves towards launching the country’s first Urban Air Mobility (UAM) services.

The resort island of Jeju is one of South Korea’s leading domestic tourist attractions, attracting a record 6.8 million tourists during the first half of 2022. As such, SKT and its partners believe the island is a perfect location to begin trialing its UAM capabilities, envisaging a future where airborne taxis ferry visitors across the Island.

Original Jeju Island Story

Ryu Young-sang, CEO of SK Telecom, commented, “We will turn Jeju Island, an eco-friendly tourist attraction, into the main game-changer for the future mobility service by growing the region into an innovative base for UAMs.”

Known as the K-UAM Dream Team Consortium, it was formed earlier this year and includes defence and IT specialist Hanwha Systems, the Korea Meteorological Institute, and Korea Airports Corporation (KAC), the national airport authority, alongside SKT. The partners intend to launch a commercial service in 2025, with Jeju’s local government agreeing to oversee and support the project.

SKT will provide the UAM connectivity platform, which it has been co-developing with U.S eVTOL company, Joby Aviation, since February this year.

Ryu Young-sang

Meanwhile, KAC is to establish vertiports for the flying taxis and monitor them in the air using existing flight safety infrastructure. The exact location has yet to be identified. And Hanwha Systems will help develop, operate, and manage the air taxi itself, including assisting the consortium to develop navigation and control solutions.

Seong-cheol Eo, CEO of Hanwha, said, “The K-UAM Dream Team will do its best to lower the psychological hurdles for new transportation methods in Jeju, where tourism and cultural resources are concentrated, to lead the future mobility paradigm.”

This Consortium is presently preparing to compete in the ‘K-UAM Grand Challenge’, a competition set up by the South Korean government, to demonstrate the safety of UAM flight and find the country’s first official UAM operator.

Multiple rival consortiums have been formed to take part, with many of South Korea’s largest companies, such as car-maker Hyundai, Korean IT firm Kakao Group, and conglomerate Lotte Group, taking leading roles.

Two of these other consortia feature SKT’s direct competitors, KT and LG Uplus. KT announced last November they had formed a partnership with Hyundai Motor Company, Engineering and Construction Company; Incheon International Airport; and Korean Air to develop their own UAM capabilities. While, LG Uplus has stated it is teaming up with Kakao Mobility and GS Caltex for a similar UAM pilot in Busan, South Korea’s second largest city.

The South Korean government is set to announce the consortia chosen to participate in the Challenge in November, with demonstrations by the entrants planned to take place in Seoul and Jeollanam-do province during 2023 and 2024.

(News Source: https://totaltele.com/)

(Top pic credit: Korea Airports Corporation)