South Korea Kicks Off UAM Grand Challenge

Volocopter conducted piloted flights of its prototype eVTOL air taxi in South Korea in November 2021.
Credit: Volocopter

South Korea has launched its K-UAM Grand Challenge, a large-scale demonstration project intended to enable the commercialization of urban air mobility from 2025.

Open to domestic and foreign companies, the Challenge will have two phases. The first will be conducted by the Korea Institute of Aviation Safety Technology on Goheung. Demonstration projects on the island are expected to start as early as the first half of 2023.

The second phase will be held in urban areas and, predicated on the results of the first phase, will take place as early as 2024, Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) said.

The goal of the Challenge is “to sufficiently verify the safety of the urban air mobility system before commercialization and to establish operating concepts and technical standards suitable for domestic conditions,” MOLIT says. The government plans to use data generated by the demonstrations to prepare standards for UAM in the country.

Participation is being sought from domestic and foreign UAM operators, vehicle manufacturers, traffic management providers and vertiport developers. “Participating organizations will have the opportunity to prepare for commercialization synchronized with the institutionalization of relevant standards as well as accumulate flights and traffic management data necessary for commercialization,” MOLIT says.

Several teams have already formed, including those led by Korean companies Hanwha Systems and Hyundai. U.S. startup Joby Aviation has teamed with local telecommunications giant SK Telecom and Germany’s Volocopter with South Korean ride-hailing platform Kakao Mobility.

Volocopter conducted eVTOL demo flights in South Korea in November 2021 while EHang, in partnership with the Seoul metropolitan government, performed its first flight in the South Korean capital in November 2020. The car rental arm of local conglomerate Lotte has partnered with U.S. eVTOL startup Skyworks Global.

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.