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South Korea on track to launch commercial air taxis in 2025

By Kim Hye-ran & Kim Tae-gyu, UPI News Korea
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South Korea on track to launch commercial air taxis in 2025
A two-seat flying drone to be used as a taxi awaits takeoff for a demonstration flight in Seoul last November. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- South Korea is on track to launch air taxi services in 2025, allowing Seoul residents to reach nearby airports in 20 minutes, the country's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced this week.

The ministry said it decided to commercialize a prime service in the urban air mobility market: next-generation passenger drones that fly at an altitude between 300 meters and 600 meters above ground.

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In the beginning phase, the drones will be controlled by a pilot, but by 2030, they will be remote-controlled. By 2035, the ministry said it plans to launch fully autonomous air taxis.

Landing and take-off points will be set up at major traffic hubs. The passenger drones are expected to carry people between Seoul, the capital, and Gimpo and Incheon airports.

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The ministry is set to test flights in November for the second time. Last year, it tested a two-seater drone for about 3.5 kilometers along the Han River.

A host of companies are participating in the project, including aircraft manufacturers, maintenance service providers, infrastructure builders and insurance companies.

Included in that list are Hyundai Motor, Hanwha Systems, SK Telecom, and Korean Air.

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In the United States, Joby Aviation has promised to run a commercial fleet of air taxis by 2024, one year ahead of South Korea.

This month, NASA said it began testing Joby Aviation's all-electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

"UAM is emerging as a viable means of transportation. This mobility makes sense in Seoul and its surrounding areas, where tens of millions constantly suffer from traffic congestion," Daelim University automotive Professor Kim Pil-soo told UPI News Korea.

"Cargo drones will debut before passenger drones, which need a high level of safety. Many companies, including Hyundai Motor, are going all out to take advantage of the business opportunities," he said.

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