South Korea’s SK Telecom is to work with Joby Aviation to develop eVTOL air taxi services in several cities across the country. Under an agreement signed on February 6 at Joby’s California headquarters, the companies said they will collaborate on work based on the Korean Urban Air Mobility (K-UAM) roadmap announced by the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport in 2020.
Joby intends to start commercial operations with its unnamed four-passenger eVTOL aircraft in 2024. It says the aircraft will have a range of 150 miles at speeds of up to 200 mph.
“With more than 42 million people living in urban areas, South Korea offers a remarkable opportunity for Joby to make air travel a part of daily life, helping people to save time while reducing their carbon footprint,” commented Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt.
The partners intend to establish a ride-sharing network using SK’s T Map mobility platform and the UT ride-hailing service that the telecommunications group established in 2021 through a joint venture with Uber. Previously, Joby was one of several eVTOL aircraft developers named by Uber as operating partners in its planned Uber Elevate platform, which it subsequently agreed to sell to Joby in December 2020. Joby says it will operate all flights itself, and that in the U.S. passengers will be able to book rides through its own Joby app or the Uber app.
“By joining forces with Joby, a global leader in this field, we expect to accelerate our journey towards the era of urban air mobility and lead the way on introducing this exciting new technology,” said SK Telecom CEO Ryu Young-sang, who signed the deal with Bevirt. “Collaborating with leading global companies is essential to securing leadership in future industries, which we are confident will be driven by the growth of UAM, autonomous driving, and robots.”
Rival eVTOL aircraft developers EHang and Volocopter have conducted flight demonstrations in South Korea as part of their own plans to be involved in the K-UAM roadmap. South Korean automotive group Hyundai is working on plans for an eVTOL aircraft through its new Supernal subsidiary.
Meanwhile, Korean group Hanwha Systems is working with UAM ground infrastructure developer Skyports to develop vertiports in the country. Hanwha is also the lead investor in Overair's plans to bring the Butterfly eVTOL aircraft to market.
Meanwhile, on February 4, the Federal Communications Commission granted Joby an experimental temporary authorization to use specific temporary radio frequencies for planned eVTOL flight demonstrations in the San Francisco Bay area. The authorization is valid through July 1, 2022. The company has not confirmed when it intends to make the flights or whether it yet has approval from the FAA and local officials.