South Korea Launches a $1.3 bn Air-taxi Research Project

  • May 15, 2022

The South Korean government will launch a 1.6 trillion won ($1.3 billion) project to set basic standards for urban air mobility (UAM), or air taxi, as the country is preparing to commercialize the next-generation mobility service from 2025, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

Five government ministries and a state agency, led by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, will draw up principle-based standards and guidelines on UAM services, including the UAM aircraft certification and the infrastructure like vertiports, where the UAM vehicles can make vertical takeoffs and landings.

It is the country’s first large-scale government project to research and develop the new type of flying vehicles, in the absence of global standards for the future mobility service, the sources said on Thursday.

After introducing the service in 2025, South Korea plans to commercialize UAM in full swing by 2030, but the lack of relevant standards becomes a roadblock to its development.

“To bring UAM to practical use, it is necessary to set standards for the certification of its fuselage, charging standards and the use of radio frequencies,” a government official told The Korea Economic Daily on Thursday. 

“This project will also deal with how to define the roles of UAM pilots and the range of their responsibilities.” 

The government standards, once introduced, will serve as basic guidelines for companies to move ahead with their UAM business. 

Detailed regulations such as noise limits will be decided later in consultation with individual municipal governments. 


Up to now, four Korean consortia, including a Hyundai Motor-led group, have joined the race for UAM services. Mobile carrier SK Telecom Co., Lotte Rental Co. and LG Uplus Corp., a wireless and internet service provider, have also formed their separate consortium to enter the UAM market.

“It’s not regulations but the absence of principle-based regulations or standards that keep us from taking our step forward,” said an official of a company preparing to launch UAM services.  

As an example, there are no guidelines on UAM’s flight paths such as how far they should keep a distance from the restricted flight airspace, he stated.

Graphics by Jerry Lee

There is not even a consensus definition for UAM. 

“An automobile, for example, is defined as a running device with four wheels and powered by engines,” said Kim Sang-hyeon, a professor in the department of air transport, transportation and logistics at Korea Aerospace University.

“We will be able to set out detailed business plans only after UAM’s basic technology standards are introduced.” 

UAM will operate in the sky to transport passengers and cargo and significantly reduce travel time in urban and suburban areas. Its passengers may transfer to an autonomous vehicle on the ground after landing on a vertiport.

Last month, Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., part of the Hyundai Motor-led consortium, announced a plan to build the country’s first vertiport in the heart of Seoul.

The UAM market is expected to expand at an average annual growth rate of 30.7% from $7 billion in 2021 to $1.5 trillion by 2040, according to Morgan Stanley.

The government departments participating in the R&D program are the Ministry of Science and ICT; the Ministry of Commerce; the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy; the Ministry of SMEs and Startups; and the Korea Meteorological Administration.

Credit to: The Korea Economic Daily

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