Korea seeks to introduce drone taxis by 2025

Korea seeks to introduce drone taxis by 2025

A drone taxi flies above Yeouido in Seoul during a test flight event on Nov. 11, 2020. Yonhap

By Lee Min-hyung

Korea aims to commercialize “drone taxis,” or urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles, by the end of 2025 at the earliest, aiming to ease traffic congestion on Seoul’s roads, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said Tuesday.

Under the ambitious plan, the ministry shared its drafts to introduce unmanned drone taxis by 2035, following a 10-year trial run testing the technological stability of driverless aerial vehicles. The land authority will start pilot tests for driverless drone taxis as early as 2030, before their full-fledged commercialization.

The market for UAM vehicles is still in its infancy. However, a group of automakers and tech firms are expanding investments into UAM systems under the premise of alleviating traffic congestion in major metropolitan areas around the world.

The land ministry expects the global UAM market to grow at a rapid pace, to reach an estimated size of 730 trillion won ($617.59 billion) by 2040. The estimated value of the domestic UAM market could reach around 13 trillion won by that time, said the ministry.

The ministry will also establish “vertiports” in major traffic hubs in the capital, where drone taxis can safely take off and land vertically.

Drone taxis will fly at an altitude of 300 to 600 meters and UAM passengers will be able to reach their destinations three times faster than they would using conventional automobiles, according to the ministry.

The ministry plans to collaborate with private companies to develop industrial ecosystems for drone taxis. Toward that end, the ministry plans to select vertiport and UAM management companies to encourage the sustainable growth of the industry.

In November 2020, Seoul City and the ministry successfully held a demonstration flight of a drone taxi. The two-seat aerial vehicle flew around seven minutes above Yeouido in central Seoul.

The ministry plans to hold an event for the second test flight of the UAM vehicle sometime in November at Incheon International Airport. But as there are no global standards for the emerging industry, it still remains to be seen what type of vehicles will be used for the versions of drone taxis in Korea.

More details of the vision have been included in a UAM concept book released by the ministry on Tuesday. The ministry said that it will also continue to expand its partnerships with tech firms for research and development of the UAM vehicles.

“We will do our best to commercialize the UAM ― the state-of-the-art urban transportation system ― early,” Second Vice Land Minister Hwang Seong-kyu was quoted as saying in the statement.

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