Korean Air, Hyundai lead new push towards UAM services

Korean AIr UAM

National flag carrier Korean Air has announced it is teaming up with Hyundai and three other South Korean partners to accelerate and strengthen preparations for urban aerial mobility (UAM) services in the country.

The Korean Air-led consortium will work to promote next-generation advanced air mobility through an overlapping series of projects to develop market opportunities for electric craft and services. The group will also work to nurture greater social acceptance of future UAM alternatives to existing transport, and jointly conceive and promote a business cooperation roadmap supported by as many sector participants as possible. 

The full slate of founding members are Korean Air, Hyundai Motor Company, Hyundai Engineering & Construction Company, Incheon International Airport Corporation, and KT Corporation. All partners are expected to contribute their particular experience and expertise to the UAM building effort. 

With its history in passenger and cargo transportation, aircraft maintenance, and crewed and uncrewed aerial vehicle development, Korean Air will play a central role in conceptualizing the group’s proposed UAM operations and control system. That will include preparing traffic management networks from an aircraft service provider’s perspective, and researching and testing operational passenger and logistics business models. 

Hyundai Motor Company, meanwhile, will be central to UAM aircraft development, trials, and eventual production and commercialization guidelines. For its part, Hyundai Engineering & Construction will be tasked with designing and constructing vertiports and mobility hubs connected to ground transportation.

Incheon International Airport Corporation will build other UAM infrastructure, test vertiport functionality, and research traffic management possibilities, while KT Corporation orchestrates communication systems and business concepts for air-to-ground connectivity.

South Korea has begun moving quickly to prepare for looming UAM transportation of people and goods. Leaders regard that activity as a potential means of unclogging the nation’s congested roadways, using electric air transport that’s both sustainable and zero-carbon emitting. To exploit that, the government plans on initiating air taxi services as early as 2025, and has encouraged private sector actors to work with public administrations to gear up for the unprecedented aerial activity and traffic that will commence in just a few short years. 

Reflecting that logic, a separate but not unrelated announcement was made by South Korea’s retail giant Lotte Group revealing it is teaming up with international and domestic partners to launch UAM shuttles between Incheon Airport and Seoul’s Jamsil neighborhood. Other partners in that effort include US autogyro research and development company Skyworks Aeronautics, Mobius.energy Corp, and domestic aerial mobility startup Mint Air.

The developments were revealed on the first day of K-UAM Confex 2021, a congress showcasing UAM craft and services. As part of its opening, German electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft manufacturer Volocopter staged the second-ever crewed air taxi flight in South Korea – a five-minute trial run covering approximately three kilometers at a maximum speed of 45 km/h. Its first crewed demonstration in the country took place last week at Gimpo Airport.

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