On February 6th, SK Telecom, a prominent South Korean telecommunications company, and Joby Aviation announced they will work together to introduce emissions-free aerial ridesharing services to cities and communities across South Korea.
SKT’s CEO Ryu Young-sang and Joby’s founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt signed a strategic collaboration agreement at Joby’s manufacturing facility in Marina, California. The agreement will see the two companies work closely on introducing this revolutionary form of transportation in support of the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport’s “K-UAM” (Korean Urban Air Mobility) Roadmap, first announced in 2020. This roadmap is similar to Japan’s Aerial Mobility Roadmap, covered by TransportUP in June of 2021.
With a maximum range of 150 miles (241 kilometers), a top speed of 200 mph (321 km/h), and a low noise profile that will allow it to access built-up areas, Joby’s piloted aircraft is designed to make convenient, emissions-free air travel an everyday reality.
SKT has been promoting the development of urban air mobility by leveraging its expertise in telecommunications, autonomous driving, precise positioning, and security to become a leading company in connected intelligence. As a member of the “UAM Team Korea”, SKT is also working together with other major Korean companies to enhance the nation’s competitiveness in the field.
The partners intend to leverage SK’s T Map mobility platform, Korea’s largest mobility platform, and UT ride hailing service to provide multi-modal journeys to customers seamlessly integrating both ground and air travel. UT was established as a joint venture between SKT and Uber in 2021, bringing together SK’s T Map platform and Uber’s ride sharing technology. Joby and Uber have been collaborating since 2019.
Joby has already completed more than 1,000 test flights and has become the first, and only, eVTOL company to sign a G-1 (stage 4) Certification Basis for their aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
While Joby’s aerial ridesharing service will be operated directly by the company and offered to passengers via the Joby app or the Uber app in core U.S. markets, this announcement reflects Joby’s strategy to partner with local companies committed to delivering exceptional customer service and operational excellence to launch its service in select markets outside the U.S.
Why it’s important: This recent announcement furthers eVTOL developmental plans for Asia, following companies such as EHang that have attempted to jumpstart an early acquisition of a sizeable portion of the Asian market by making serious inroads toward aerial mobility marketshare dominance in their home nation of China. With Joby’s collaboration agreement with SKT Telecomm in South Korea, considerable resource sharing will occur that should enable both groups to leverage one another’s experience in aerial mobility operations and operations within South Korea for ride-sharing based comms infrastructure, and IT infrastructure required for running on-demand mobility operations.