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SKT, Joby aim to speed up Korean-style UAM

By Kim So-yeon

Published : Jan. 12, 2023 - 15:53

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Joby Aviation CEO JoeBen Bevirt (left) and SK Telecom CEO Yoo Young-sang pose in front of an urban air mobility aircraft in Joby Aviation's production facilities in San Jose, California. (SK Telecom) Joby Aviation CEO JoeBen Bevirt (left) and SK Telecom CEO Yoo Young-sang pose in front of an urban air mobility aircraft in Joby Aviation's production facilities in San Jose, California. (SK Telecom)

South Korea’s largest wireless carrier, SK Telecom, and US aviation company Joby Aviation said Thursday they advanced a strategic partnership for a boost in the commercialization of Korean-style urban air mobility, or UAM.

Joby Aviation recently invited officials from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the Korea Institute of Aviation Safety Technology, and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute to its headquarters in San Jose, California.

Joby Aviation formed a strategic partnership with SKT in February last year. The UAM aircraft giant will play a key role in various fields, from aircraft supply to cooperation with operational methods, by participating in domestic demonstration projects with SKT, the telecom firm said.

“Having been in our second year of full-scale collaboration, we will continue our best to serve as a bridge in the Korea-US partnership and lead the successful commercialization of K-UAM,” said Yoo Young-sang, CEO of SK Telecom.

The two companies also urged for more government support to revitalize the industry at the meeting.

Last week, the top executives of both companies attended the Consumer Electronics Show 2023 in Las Vegas, where they discussed ways to strengthen their ties.

In particular, the two companies discussed the certification type procedures needed to introduce Joby Aviation's aircraft in Korea, various pilot projects to generate initial UAM demand and ideas to secure in advance infrastructure for the Vertiport -- a hub for electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Separately, SKT will form a "K-UAM Dream Team Consortium" with the Korea Airports Corp., Hanwha Systems, the Korea Meteorological Administration, and the Korea Land and Geospatial InformatiX Corp. to participate in the first phase of a state-organized UAM demonstration program. Named the "K-UAM Grand Challenge," UAM vehicles undergo safety and feasibility tests for urban conditions in the program.

In addition, the telecom giant plans to use data from the early stages of UAM demonstration in Korea to come up with a business model that it hopes can lead the global UAM commercialization.

"We will verify the stability of UAM and develop it into a sustainable service when operating standards are established through the K-UAM Grand Challenge demonstration project, starting in August this year,” the company said.

“If governmental support continues for entrepreneurs with technical service, we will make efforts to speed up the project.”