volocopter, kakao mobility study south korea uam potentials

In another sign of accelerating activity to prepare South Korea for approaching urban air mobility (UAM) services, local company Kakao Mobility is teaming up with German air taxi and cargo drone specialist Volocopter to conduct feasibility studies on next-generation transport technologies in the nation.

Under the Volocopter-Kakao memorandum of understanding, the partners will investigate the most promising commercial routes, operational capabilities, and business models for UAM services in South Korea. Ideally, that feasibility study would produce results that could act as the foundation for the two companies jointly launching next generation air services in the country – notably air taxi routes using Volocopter craft. 

Those future aerial passenger and goods transportation options could potentially interface via vertiports, with the ground taxi, parking, and other mobility services offered by Kakao that users currently access and reserve using the Kakao T application. As such, the deal reflects a similar logic to that of last week’s deal between UAM infrastructure specialist Skyports and LAZ Parking to build air-to-ground transport connecting vertiports across Los Angeles.

The pairing is also another sign of Volocopter becoming more active in staking out an early role in South Korea’s UAM future, and at the very same time the government has kicked preparation for those services into high gear.

In October South Korea’s South Korea’s Ministry for Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MLIT) announced its intention to introduce commercial air taxi services by the end of 2025. It plans to start testing automated flights of those in 2030, with an eye to authorizing pilotless operations by 2035.

As part of that, the MLIT will oversee construction of the country’s first vertiports, initially focusing on main transportation hubs in Seoul. Among the first services to be offered will be air taxi shuttles between the capital and Gimpo and Incheon airports. Officials are also planning to establish flight corridors for air taxis and other urban air mobility craft with an altitude range from 300 to 600 feet. 

Amid all that action, Volocopter this month conducted the first two crewed flights of its S2 electric vertical takeoff and landing craft in South Korea during public demonstrations at both Seoul airports. Its new exploratory collaboration with Kakao – whose findings will be revealed next February – is another step in Volocopter’s effort to get a head start in what increasingly appears to be an already started South Korean UAM race.

“Having a strong and reliable network of partners has always been a fundamental factor for our continued success,” said Florian Reuter, Volocopter CEO. “We believe that the synergy from the cooperation with a leading local partner helps us develop a service tailored for the domestic market. We are very excited about our partnership with Kakao Mobility, South Korea’s industry leader in platform technology.” 

 Seungil You, Kakao Mobility’s chief technology officer, echoed similar confidence in the partners being able to combine their respective strengths for even more powerful results in South Korea’s UAM future.

 “As the largest mobility platform in South Korea with 30 million registered users, Kakao Mobility has deep insights on traffic patterns and customer needs in the Korean mobility market,” he said. “Starting from the cooperation with Volocopter in the Korean market, we are looking forward to expanding our partnership across the UAM industry worldwide as well as our business as an airspace mobility platform in the future.”


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