Five government ministries and a state agency, led by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, will develop principles-based standards and guidelines for UAM services, such as UAM aircraft certification and infrastructure such as vertiports, where UAM vehicles can perform vertical takeoffs and landings.
According to the sources, it is the country’s first large-scale government effort to investigate and create the new type of flying vehicles in the absence of global norms for future mobility services.
South Korea wants to commercialize UAM in full swing by 2030 after establishing the service in 2025, but a lack of appropriate standards is a hindrance to its development.
“In order to put UAM into actual use, requirements for certification of its fuselage, charging standards, and radio frequency use must be established,” a government official told The Korea Economic Daily.
“This project will also address how to define the roles and scope of UAM pilots’ tasks.”
Once implemented, the government regulations will serve as basic guidance for enterprises to carry forward with their UAM operations. Detail requirements, such as noise limitations, will be set later in collaboration with local governments.
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So far, four Korean consortia, including one led by Hyundai Motor, have entered the race for UAM services. Mobile carrier SK Telecom Co., Lotte Rental Co., and cellular and internet service provider LG Uplus Corp. have also created their own consortia to enter the UAM industry.
“It’s not restrictions, but the lack of principle-based norms or standards that prevents us from moving forward,” said a representative of a company planning to introduce UAM services.
As an example, he noted that there are no guidelines on UAM’s flight paths regarding how far they should stay a distance from restricted aircraft airspace.
There is no agreed-upon definition of UAM.
“An automobile, for example, is described as running equipment with four wheels and propelled by engines,” said Kim Sang-hyeon, a professor in Korea Aerospace University’s department of air transport, transportation, and logistics.
“We won’t be able to develop specific commercial plans until UAM’s core technology requirements are implemented.”
UAM will transport passengers and cargo in the skies, drastically reducing travel time in urban and suburban locations. After landing on a vertiport, its passengers can transfer to an autonomous vehicle on the ground.
Last month, Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor, unveiled plans to construct the country’s first vertiport in the center of Seoul.
According to Morgan Stanley, the UAM market would rise at a 30.7 percent annual rate from $7 billion in 2021 to $1.5 trillion by 2040.
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 are among the government agencies involved in the R&D initiative.
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