Korea Seven CEO Choi Kyung-ho (L) poses with Pablo Air CEO Kim Young-joon after signing a partnership for drone delivery services at Korea Seven’s head office in Seoul on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Korea Seven
SEOUL, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Korea Seven, a subsidiary of Lotte Group, which manages the 7-Eleven brand in South Korea, said it plans to launch a pilot run of drone delivery services this year.
For the launch, the Seoul-based company is partnering with Pablo Air, which develops drone hardware and software, as well as logistics solutions using drones.
A 7-Eleven store housing a drone station is planned to open near Seoul by December. A test flight is planned to take place there.
Pablo Air will supply the drone, and the station will be designed by BMW America and produced by U.S. manufacturer EVA, Korea Seven announced Wednesday.
The company said the commercial service will begin after the safety of the unmanned, flying vehicles is confirmed, possibly sometime next year. The service plans to target campers or travelers near the new store.
"The drone will be able to carry items less than 10 kilograms [about 22 pounds] and fly a distance of 10 kilometers [about six miles]. The weight and flight distance will be extended later," a Pablo Air representative told UPI News Korea. "To start commercial services, we need to win government approval."
South Korean oil refiner GS Caltex failed to launch its commercial drone delivery service after a test flight last June.
A company official said it has tried to resolve technical and regulatory barriers.
South Korea has historically been reluctant to permit businesses to use drones, because the country -- which is still technically at war with North Korea -- is wary of airborne objects.
However, the South Korean government has vowed to support drone-related industries and ease related regulations.
"For now, human messengers or drivers provide a much easier, cheaper and safer way of delivering items than drones do," Daelim University automotive Professor Kim Pil-soo said in a phone interview.
"But things are different for remote areas like mountains and islands. Drone delivery services will eventually come to town, but they will not be broadly accepted in the near future," he said.