South Korea’s Jeju Island is preparing to introduce an air taxi service by 2025, a first step in the popular tourist destination’s plans to make urban air mobility (UAM) services an option routine transportation around the vacation hotspot.
Plans to deploy air taxis and future UAM services have been reported by The Korean Herald, which detailed initial operations using coastal routes between three busy locations in Jeju. Administered as a special self-governing province, Jeju aims to become the first region in South Korea to introduce next-generation electric air travel.
The project involves local authorities, South Korean airline Kencoa Aerospace and the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC).
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The island’s first planned UAM network route will operate air taxis between Jeju International Airport on the central north shore and Moseulpo on its southwestern tip; from there travelers can take short hops to the small islands of Moseulpo, Gapado and Marado. The third route is a northeast curve to Seongsan Ilchulbong, also known as Sunrise Peak.
The project also includes the construction of vertiports to facilitate the take-off and landing of UAM craft, as well as new hotels to accommodate the growing number of visitors expected by officials involved in the Jeju air taxi project.
“It would allow tourists to board the electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft at Jeju Airport to land directly at tourist spots and be transferred to nearby drone taxis,” said Chung Chan-young, director of Kencoa Aerospace. The Korean Herald. “The timeframe would be around 2025.”
Relying primarily on routes along the coast will no doubt offer UAM travelers spectacular views of Jeju when watching fast air taxis, but this longer distance decision was largely a decision of pragmatism based on factors exteriors.
Efforts to launch South Korea’s first air taxi services between central Seoul locations from Gimpo International Airport recently hit a snag, when the presidential office move and other developments pushed areas air exclusion on planned routes.
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While these kinds of unexpected surprises are highly unlikely to occur when planning new UAM services in Jeju, Chung says his partners exercise caution in choosing initial air taxi routes.
“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. “Jeju functions as a perfect testbed and the best location to leverage UAM for the benefits of the region. Examining geographical features across the coastline is less complicated, and establishing a vertiport on the sea can also work.
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