Songdo becomes drone mecca

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Songdo becomes drone mecca

Songdo in Incheon has become a mecca for local drone developers as it is free of regulations banning the use of drones, making it become a hot spot for drone makers.

Songdo was created by reclaiming 32.3 square kilometers (12.4 square miles) of sea in a mega-project launched in 2003. It is largely free from regulatory measures, as there are no military installations near the area, since it used to be a vast coastal region covered by seawater prior to 2003.

The absence of legal obstacles to fly drones is a boon for gadget developers, as Seoul is ridden with regulations banning the use of drones to protect important facilities such as the presidential office and the government complex building. Gyeonggi is not exempt from state regulations because of its proximity to the inter-Korea border and the presence of military installations there.

“One big advantage to testing a drone in Songdo is that it is without no-fly zones, which are common in Seoul,” said Park Sang-gook, director of the research center for the drone manufacturer We Make Drone.

Oh In-seon, CEO of Soomvi, which manufactures and develops rescue-purpose drones, agreed that Songdo is attractive as a drone site.

“Aside from its unrestrained environment for drone flying, Songdo also offers beautiful scenery like the coast and mud flats along with a convenient road system,” Oh said. “Industrial infrastructure is also a strong point for Songdo, as Namdong Industrial Complex, which produces parts for drones, is located nearby.”

Looking to seize on the opportunity offered by the drone industry, the Incheon Metropolitan City Government is pushing for a 78.5 billion-won ($69 million) investment to set up a cooperative industrial-educational aviation research center on a plot of 16,400 square meters in Songdo by 2020.

An official at the Incheon city government expressed expectations that Songdo could be the center venue for the country’s drone industry at a time when China is expected to have a huge demand for the drones.

“We are hoping to tap into the growing demand as Incheon already has the infrastructure and the right environment for drones and the aviation industry,” said the official, who asked for anonymity.

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy is also aiming to turn Songdo into the country’s centerpiece of aviation research and production complex by using Songdo’s appeal as a drone-regulation free area.

BY KIM MIN-WOOK [kang.jinyku@joongang.co.kr]

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