Korean Telecom SKT Sees A Future In UAM

Led by carmaker Hyundai, South Korea is moving aggressively to embrace urban air mobility
Credit: Hyundai

South Korean wireless communication provider SK Telecom is to establish a mobility business unit, and a joint venture with Uber, with urban air mobility as a future target market. 

South Korea is moving aggressively to embrace urban air mobility (UAM). The Seoul government in June released a Korean UAM roadmap calling for demonstration flights in 2023 and initial commercial service in 2025. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport also launched UAM Team Korea, a public-private partnership to accelerate the realization of urban air services and development of the industry. 

Korean carmaker Hyundai is investing $1.5 billion in development of a UAM ecosystem including electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) air taxis and multi-modal mobility hubs. Its initial piloted four-passenger S-A1 urban air taxi is planned to enter the market in 2028 and the company is planning a larger version for intercity flights. Korea’s Hanwha Systems in an investor in eVTOL developer Overair.

In September, Hyundai’s Air Mobility division teamed with Incheon International Airport, Hyundai Engineering & Construction and Korean telecom giant KT Corp. to accelerate UAM and conduct test flights. The partnership is aligned with the K-UAM roadmap, which includes the Korean UAM Grand Challenge, a public-private joint demonstration project.

In the near term, SK Telecom’s new T Map Mobility business unit will focus on growing Korea’s ride-hailing market. SKT and Uber, meanwhile, will form a joint venture focus on the country’s taxi-hailing market. Uber will invest $100 million in the venture plus $50 million in T Map Mobility.

“T Map Mobility also aspires to bring the ‘future of mobility’ to Korea across various advanced technologies including vertical takeoff and landing,” the company said in a statement. This will leverage SKT’s 5G wireless communications, artificial intelligence and mapping capabilities to offer optimal route planning, three-dimension mapping and air traffic control systems for eVTOL aircraft.

“We will work closely with companies with diverse capabilities to address current challenges in transportation, and ultimately usher in a new era of future mobility technologies such as flying cars,” said SKT CEO Park Jung-ho in a statement.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.