South Korea’s SK Telecom and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft specialist Joby Aviation have announced an agreement to develop advanced air mobility (AAM) ride-sharing services between cities across one of southeast Asia’s most promising next-generation transportation markets.
The plan calls for joint work to prepare eVTOL services in South Korea using Joby’s five-seat aircraft. The omissions-free vehicles offer a maximum range of 150 miles, and top speeds of 200 mph that will provide relatively short- and medium-haul AAM services now usually made by car, rail, or chartered plane. That activity, of course, will not preclude inner-city air taxi operations if the partners choose to pursue that with Joby craft, whose low-noise profile allow them to integrate into populated areas.
SKT has been active in the government-orchestrated Korean Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Roadmap program. As part of that, the nation’s largest telecom service provider is also a member “UAM Team Korea,” a collective of major Korean companies aiming to pave the way for the launch of AAM services and infrastructure. In particular, SKT has been promoting the development of UAM by leveraging its expertise in telecommunications, autonomous driving, precise positioning, and data security.
Their planned eVTOL offer in South Korea will be operated by Joby, using their pooled tech assets to facilitate riders reserving AAM flights. That includes SKT’s T Map mobility platform and UT ride hailing app, created last year in a joint venture with Uber – the latter being a Joby partner since 2019. SKT says the UT app will allow customers to plan multi-modal journeys integrating ground and air travel.
“By joining forces with Joby, a global leader in this field, we expect to accelerate our journey towards the era of Urban Air Mobility and lead the way on introducing this exciting new technology,” said Ryu Young-sang, CEO of SKT.
While Joby says it plans to operate its eVTOL services in its domestic US market using its own reservation app along with that of Uber, the company says its planned activity in South Korea reflects its strategy to form local alliances in other countries.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the team at SKT who bring a wealth of relevant experience and technology to the table,” said JoeBen Bevirt, Joby CEO. “With more than 42 million people living in urban areas, South Korea offers a remarkable opportunity for Joby to make air travel a part of daily life, helping people to save time while reducing their carbon footprint.”
The move also reflects the allure of South Korea as an AAM market, reinforced by the government’s determination to prepare for the rollout of services that has already drawn the interest of major eVTOL players. Those include China’s EHang, which last year stepped up its demonstration of air taxi flights between Seoul and the two international airports serving the capital.