WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- South Korea on Wednesday unveiled a two-seater drone taxi in Seoul as the country pushed to commercialize urban air travel in the coming years.
- With a payload of 220 kgs and speed of up to 80 mph, the electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing Vehicle (eVTOL) made a test flight initiated by government officials.
- The objective of aerial urban aircraft is to reduce travel time trips and minimize land traffic congestions.
With a goal of commercializing urban air transportation by 2025, South Korea on Wednesday unveiled a sneak peek of a two-seater drone taxi in Seoul.
Developed by Chinese manufacturer EHang, the two-seater drone made a demonstration flight for seven minutes over 150 feet altitude within the vicinity of Han River near Yeouido.
The drone, called as eVTOL (electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing Vehichle), has a loading capacity of 485 pounds, with a speed of up to 80 mph.
The test flight was spearheaded by the Seoul local government and South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT). The country is currently developing a “K-dron” air-traffic management system that would soon handle the air transportation.
“We are very happy to introduce drone taxi, the future transportation system, in Seoul for the first time in Korea,” said Seoul’s acting mayor Seo Jeong-hyup.
“The city government will do its best to ensure that the human dream of flying in the sky is safely settled as a reality for Seoul citizens and to support the future industry of Korea.”
The event also showcased flight demonstrations of smaller unmanned drones for package-delivery services.
According to MOLIT Vice Minister Son Myung-soo, the government has established an urban air mobility framework that aims “to achieve commercialization by 2025 without any disruptions through collaboration with industry, academia and research institutes.”
Son noted that drones would cut the capital urban area’s travel time trips by around 70 percent. For instance, a travel to Incheon International Airport from Yeouido would only take less than 20 minutes, versus to more than 60 minutes by a car ride.
MOLIT deputy director of the drone transport division Seo Jeong-seok said that drones will be a key factor in mitigating traffic in highly population urban areas. He also said that these drones are environment-friendly.
“Urban air mobility will be good for decarbonizing the economy… South Korea is aiming for a complete decarbonization of its transport systems by 2040-2050,” Seo said.
The ministry estimated that a drone taxi fare for a 30-mile trip would costs $100, twice higher than the usual cab transport. They noted though that the fare would drop significantly over time as the market and demand grow.
Aeriel vehicles were anticipated to become a global business market in the coming decades. Multinational investment bank and financial company Morgan Stanley projected a $1.5 trillion worth of urban aerial transportation market by 2040.