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Incheon's international district attracts drone development

All News 10:01 July 22, 2016

SEOUL, July 22 (Yonhap) -- An international town near the country's western coast is turning into a mecca for drone fans and companies as its governing city begins a project next year to build an aeronautics industry complex, officials said Friday.

More than 10 firms that develop components for drones have set up offices at the Songdo International Business District in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, over the past two years, according to the city officials.

Internet communities and bloggers are calling the district one of the most ideal places in the country to try out the unmanned aircraft, being free from no-fly restrictions in the capital and its vicinity for military and safety reasons. The port city is also cited as having all the optimal features for drone flying, such as both land and sea as well as high-rises.

"Songdo is about the only place in the metropolis where free drone flying is allowed," Lee Joon-taek, vice chief of Drogen, a company whose business includes drone racing, said. "We decided to set up the company in Songdo because it has the environment for drones to become a culture. Other companies will probably be arriving as well."

Incheon's proximity to Seoul was an added plus for companies like Soomvi, developer and manufacturer of marine rescue multicopters. "Songdo has a well-placed aeronautical infrastructure nearby, and it is also easy to get professional industry specialists who are based in Seoul, which is why the drone companies are taking a close look at the district," the company chief Oh In-seon said.

Incheon International Airport, South Korea's main gateway, is located in the city.

The Incheon City government is planning to start a 2017-2020 project, estimated at 78.5 billion won (US$69 million), to build a joint industry-academic aeronautics complex 16,400 square meters in size. The government has said the complex will serve as the center for aerospace research, including drones.

"The aeronautics industry is likely to be in big demand not just at home but in China, too," a city official said. "There will be great effect if Incheon makes use of its environment and infrastructure to build drone and related industries to meet such demands."

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