SEOUL, Nov 15 – Several drones designed to carry people and goods have crossed the capital of South Korea this week on a first exhibition flight. Korea want to accelerate their development with the aim to commercialize the next-generation transport service by 2025.
“Follow these prevention measures against the coronavirus: wash your hands frequently, put on a mask and cover your mouth and nose when you cough,” repeated the loudspeaker of the small drone that flew over the attendees who were waiting to access the demonstration called this week facing the Han River.
It is just a taste of what is to come: the first flight in an urban area of South Korea of several unmanned aircraft designed to deliver goods and transport people.
The event, organized by the Ministry of Territory, Infrastructure and Transport and the Seoul Metropolitan Government, has meant the presentation in society of these devices that the authorities want to integrate in the South Korean capital in the next five years.
The acting mayor of the city, Seo Jung-hyup, assured that the city council will work actively so that the services of urban air transport of goods and people “are launched in Seoul for the first” thus marking a milestone around the world.
In reality, the K-UAM plan, which establishes test flights between the periphery and city centers for the period 2022-2024, does not differ much from others that will be tested on the same dates in cities around the world. , from Dubai to Los Angeles.
But the director of the drone division of the Ministry of Transport, Jang Young-ki, is convinced that the Asian country may be among the first to implement these technologies in cities .
“When it comes to urban air mobility, we can say that South Korea is doing quite well. We want to be world leaders alongside other countries,” Young-ki said.
One of the pillars on which the idea that the Asian country can be a pioneer in the deployment of drones and air taxis for urban transport is based is the traffic control system that the authorities have already tried successfully in less inhabited areas and that Allows multiple units to fly at once in safe conditions.
Government claims are further supported by the fact that South Korea has one of the most robust 5G networks in the world (in fact, it was the first country to put this technology into operation at the national level).
In any case, they admit that by 2025 it will be easier to achieve the widespread use of these aircraft to transport goods before people, since it will take a little longer to make the public feel 100% safe when flying.
A DRONE OF 16 PROPELLERS FOR TWO PEOPLE
But the star of the day in Seoul was the EH216 , from the Chinese firm Ehang, a drone of exorbitant measures – it has 16 propellers and weighs more than 350 kilos – capable of transporting two passengers (admitting up to 220 kilos of cargo) and that, in the absence of a regulatory framework, it could not accommodate people yet.
Vehicles like this have been designed to be the taxis of the future in cities that, in the face of the climatic emergency and the growth of their population, are looking for new solutions to improve mobility.
Several South Korean companies are participating in the development of two of the most ambitious air taxi prototypes, the EVTOL type (electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles), which require a pilot: the Butterfly (Butterfly), in which they are working the conglomerate Hanwha and the American Overair. And the SA1 from Hyundai Motor and Uber. Both share an expected release date (within three years) and a similar design.
Like the Butterfly , the SA1 can carry up to five passengers (including the pilot) and can fly at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour .