SK Telecom, the nation’s leading telecom carrier, said it aims to debut air taxi service by 2025, calling UAM or urban air mobility a “game changer” for future mobility innovations.
“Our rivals also plan to launch air taxi services in the coming years, but we are confident that we will be the first to bring UAM aircrafts to the market,” said SK Telecom’s Chief Development Officer Ha Min-yong during a press conference held at the 2022 Busan International Motor Show.
SK Telecom is the only non-carmaker participating in this year’s Busan Motor Show. During the week-long event, the company plans to introduce its upcoming UAM service and business plans.
SK Telecom is leading one of the three consortiums that recently submitted their bids to join the K-UAM Grand Challenge, a government-led program to select a UAM business operator. Hyundai Motor Group and Kakao Mobility also compete to win the deal by creating separate consortiums, respectively. Unlike its rivals that have teamed up with air carriers, SK Telecom has no aviation partner.
“We also discussed internally whether the UAM business is something for air carriers only and concluded it’s not,” Ha said. “What we are seeing is that regulations or infrastructures for operating UAM service will be different from today’s operation of airplanes.”
SK Telecom stressed its competitive advantage as a total solution provider, saying communications in the air will be crucial for the success of air vehicles.
According to the company, its “Mobility as a Service” platform creates a business-to-customer service based on a system that connects UAM operation with real-time traffic information on roads by using data on its mobility platform affiliate Tmap Mobility. This will allow passengers to make reservations in advance or freely transfer from air taxi to bus, subway or taxi.
SK Telecom that is also investing heavily in artificial intelligence and machine learning more recently said its accumulated technological prowess and business knowhow will be greatly helpful to upgrading its UAM services like autonomous flying.
Applying its knowhow on operation of data plans and phone far system, SK Telecom, the nation’s No. 1 telecom carrier in terms of subscribers, said it is also planning to come up with ride plans for commuters based on the current fares for taxis and buses from the city center to airport.
“Considering that up to four people can fit to the UAM aircraft, we will review the most optimized and efficient fare system considering the cost for using related infrastructure such as vertiport,” said Ha.
Flying taxis set to take off on 8 routes at Osaka World Expo air taxi
The 2025 Osaka World Expo looks to establish flying-taxi routes connecting to eight possible destinations, with roughly 20 flights per hour.
The flying cars would connect Yumeshima — Osaka’s artificial island and the site of the World Expo — to airports and other locations in and around Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto. Officials see the project as Japan’s first flying-taxi network for transporting passengers.
The draft plan will be presented by government officials during a meeting with the private sector Friday. A working group led by the Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has been exploring the proposal since this fiscal year.
Manufacturers and other operators will be selected as soon as fiscal 2022. Contracts will be awarded to multiple candidates in vehicle development and operation.
The project will also select candidates who will manage takeoff and landing grounds. Routes and fares will be determined after talks between operators and the association.
Possible destinations in Osaka include the city; the Osaka Bay area; Osaka International Airport, or Itami Airport; and Kansai International Airport. Destinations in Kobe include the city and Kobe Airport.
Other potential locations are Awaji Island near Kobe and the region surrounding Kyoto and Ise-Shima. Direct flights and scenic routes will be on the table.