South Korea’s most popular holiday resort, Jeju Island, is planning to launch an eVTOL taxi service for tourists by 2025, according to an exclusive report in The Korea Herald.
Kencoa Aerospace, a US-based aerospace parts manufacturer, and the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) have put forward a proposal for several routes linking Jeju International Airport with the island’s main coastal attractions.
Destinations will initially include Moseulpo, Gapado and Marado in the south and Seongsan Ilchulbong in the east.
“Jeju works as a perfect test bed and the best location to leverage UAM (Urban Air Mobility) for the area’s advantages,” Kencoa executive Chan-young Chung told the newspaper. “Examining geographical features through the coastline is less complicated, and establishing a vertiport on the sea can also work.”
He noted that parallel plans for a drone service between Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport and the city’s central Yongsan-gu district are more challenging, owing to stringent airspace restrictions near South Korea’s presidential office.
“Flying a UAM aircraft through the coast in the island faces less trouble when compared to running an air taxi in Seoul, where flying drones or aircrafts in areas like Yongsan is heavily restricted by government regulations,” Chung explained.
South Korea’s Transport Ministry has drafted a bill setting out the regulatory landscape for UAM operations in the country, The Korea Herald claimed, citing unnamed government sources. The proposed law, which needs to be approved by the National Assembly, will exempt UAM flights from existing aviation law and lay down bespoke rules for the nascent sector.
The eVTOL vehicle planned for Jeju’s taxi service was not identified by the newspaper, but Kencoa – which counts NASA and Boeing among its customers – is planning to manufacture the drones in-house.
“We are preparing to enter the UAM market through UAM tourism in Jeju and southern inland regions, and we will grow into a specialized ground MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations) company and mass-produce UAM aircraft,” the company states on its website.
Last year, Kencoa signed a memorandum of understanding with Skyports, a UK-based UAM infrastructure provider, for the establishment of a drone cargo delivery service operating between the Korean mainland and Jeju Island.
Kencoa chief executive Kenny Lee said at the time that the company wants to experiment with cargo deliveries before investing in vertiport infrastructure and “expanding into the air taxi industry”. Its cargo initiative will initially focus on critical medical supplies, though the long-term plan encompasses regular deliveries of consumer goods.
“Jeju’s excellent tourist resources will promote the commercialization of our AAM services,” Lee said. “The strength of this partnership will enable the fastest commercial launch in Korea.”
More than 50 organisations have so far engaged with the Transport Ministry on its K-UAM Grand Challenge, which aims to commercialize UAM operations in South Korea by 2025.
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