SK Telecom signs flying-taxi agreement with Joby Aviation
SK Telecom signed an agreement with Joby Aviation to jointly develop emissions-free air taxis for Korea, the telecommunications company said on Monday.
Under the agreement, the two companies will work to introduce an aerial ride-sharing service by combining the technologies in transportation and software they each own.
Details of the agreement, such as how much the companies will invest for the development, have not been decided yet, according to an SK Telecom spokesperson.
Joby Aviation is a Santa Cruz, California-based transportation company founded in 2009 that is developing an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft intended for air taxis, with 2024 as the target date for service.
Its S4 has flown farther than 150 miles in a test carrying a pilot and four passengers on a single charge. It has hit speeds of 200 miles per hour.
More than 1,000 test flights have been achieved, and Joby has been granted G-1 Certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which outlines what needs to be done to be certified for commercial service.
Joby Aviation started trading on the New York Stock Exchange last August. The shares are down more than 60 percent since then.
SK Telecom will provide its expertise in information technology for the urban air mobility (UAM) project, namely its wireless network and T Map mobility.
It will utilize the data it has accumulated while operating T Map navigation service and its UT taxi-hailing app to provide travel services both on ground and air.
SK Telecom subsidiary T Map Mobility and Uber formed UT as a joint venture in April last year.
Joby Aviation has been working with Uber since 2019. Uber was an investor in the company and eventually sold Elevate, its money-losing aerial ride-sharing unit, to Joby.
"With more than 42 million people living in urban areas, Korea offers a remarkable opportunity for Joby Aviation to make air travel a part of daily life, helping people to save time while reducing their carbon footprint," said JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby Aviation, in a statement.
SK Telecom is participating in the Korean UAM (K-UAM) roadmap led by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. The ministry aims to introduce air taxis in 2025, but some companies are aiming to start services as early as 2024.
Last November, Lotte Corp. and Lotte Rental signed an agreement with Chicago-based gyroplane manufacturer Skyworks Aeronautics to use the U.S. company's Hawk 5 gyroplane as air taxis in Korea.
Kakao Mobility is working with Bruchsal, Germany's Volocopter to offer air taxi services sometime in 2025.
While tech companies opt for deals with foreign companies, established automakers in Korea are working to develop their own UAM vehicles as well.
Hyundai Motor, Hyundai Mobis and Kia established electric air vehicle manufacturer Supernal last year to make an air taxi specializing in cargo transport by 2026 and for passengers by 2028.
In early 2020, Hyundai Motor said it would be working with Uber's Elevate.
BY YOON SO-YEON [email@example.com]