[Exclusive] Jeju Island to launch drone taxi routes for tourists by 2025
An air route for UAM and drone taxi that connects popular sightseeing spots in Jeju Island. (Kencoa Aerospace)
Jeju Island, in collaboration with South Korean airline Kencoa Aerospace and the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC), has designed three types of UAM routes on the island.
The first route connects Jeju International Airport to the southern region of Mosupo Island, which then connects Mosulpo to Gapado and Marado. The third route runs along the east coast near Seongsan Ilchulbong, a popular site also known as Sunrise Peak.
“This would allow tourists to board Jeju Airport’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to land directly at tourist spots and be transferred to nearby drone taxis. The time frame would be around 2025,” said Chung Chan-young, director of Kencoa Aerospace.
Jeju Special Self-Governing Province also plans to set up a Vertiport – a helipad-like area that can be on land, water or a structure on which eVTOLs can take off and land – at large-scale hotels where many visitors stay.
Jeju’s idea of rolling out UAM as tourist transportation is highly feasible and can happen early, Chung said, citing Seoul City’s plan to “test” a UAM route that connects Jeju International Airport. Gimpo in central Yongsan-gu, Seoul. The plan, however, hit a snag as the presidential office moved to Yongsan-gu in May.
“Flying a UAM aircraft across the island’s coast is less of a problem than operating an air taxi in Seoul, where flying drones or planes in areas like Yongsan is heavily restricted by government regulations,” Chung said.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, major areas of Seoul and all airspace along the Han River are no-fly zones.
“Jeju functions as a perfect testbed and the best location to leverage UAM for the benefits of the region. Examining geographic features across the coastline is less complicated, and establishing a Vertiport on the sea can also work,” Chung added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation has submitted its bill that would establish requirements and regulations for UAM, the Korea Herald learned in interviews. It is the first of its kind in the world, according to sources. If approved by the National Assembly, South Korea would become the first country to have dedicated UAM regulations, the sources added.
The special law should separate the UAM from the legal boundary of the current aviation law. Flying cars would be advised not to fly at helicopter altitude, which is about 450 meters above the ground. The rule for UAM could vary between 300 and 600 meters above the ground.
As part of the government’s plan to commercialize UAM in central cities by 2025, the Ministry of Transportation launched a K-UAM Grand Challenge in February to coordinate all UAM-related activities of South Korea. South as part of its goal to activate emerging aviation markets.
Major companies like SK Telecom, Hyundai Motor Group and Hanwha Systems have formed consortia to participate in the government-led evaluation and demonstration test, which will take place in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, from the ‘next year.
By Kim Da-sol (firstname.lastname@example.org)