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S. Korea tests unmanned drone taxis in downtown Seoul

All News 10:00 November 11, 2020

SEOUL, Nov. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has tested an unmanned air taxi service in the capital city of Seoul as it seeks to commercialize urban air mobility services in 2025, the transport ministry said Wednesday.

The government has tested six drone taxis in Yeouido, western Seoul, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said in a statement.

It is the first time for the country to test the drone taxi service in a densely populated city.

Similar tests were previously conducted at designated test sites in Incheon, just west of Seoul, and Yeongwol, 200 kilometers east of Seoul, the statement said.

The six drones used in the demonstration are EH216s made by Chinese pilotless air taxi firm Ehang. They have two seats and weigh 650 kg per drone, the ministry said, adding the "K-drone traffic management system" is being developed under a state-financed project.

This Yonhap graphic image shows the government's plan to promote urban air mobility services in South Korea. (Yonhap)

The drone taxi program is in line with the government's broader plans to develop urban air mobility (UAM) solutions to begin commercial services in 2025 to alleviate ground traffic congestion and secure a future growth engine.

UAM is a key future innovation business that can help overcome urban challenges like traffic congestion by connecting the sky and the ground.

Air taxis equipped with electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) functions are expected to be available in some cities of the United States and Europe for commercial services by 2025, the statement said.

In September, the ministry tested an autonomous drone food delivery service amid the rising non-contact trend in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sejong City, an administrative hub 130 km southeast of Seoul.

In Sejong, five drones delivered meals and other products to people at homes two to three kilometers away across a lake and at high-rise buildings within 10 minutes.

South Korea aims to establish a presence in the drone delivery services market, where competition is fierce among global logistics powerhouses, such as U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon.com, Inc. and German delivery services company DHL.

This photo taken on Sept. 19, 2020, shows a person receiving a food box delivery from a drone during a government-led test event in the administrative city of Sejong, some 130 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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