Joby and South Korea-based SK Telecom are to jointly participate in the K-UAM Grand Challenge. The two companies will combine their expertise and resources to undertake flight testing designed to support the development of the urban air mobility sector in Korea. K-UAM Grand Challenge is a large-scale demonstration programme launched by South Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) to test the safety and suitability of UAM in an urban environment and to support its commercialisation by 2025.
SKT and Joby are part of the K-UAM Dream Team Consortium, which announced its intent to participate in the challenge in February 2023. The consortium includes a wide range of partners, including Korea Airports Corporation, Hanwha Systems and T Map Mobility.
The first phase of the Grand Challenge programme will take place at a national flight site in Goheung, Jeollanam-do. SKT and Joby Aviation plan to use Joby's aircraft to conduct flight tests in various scenarios to check the integrated operation of the UAM system and measure the aircraft's acoustic footprint. Joby will dispatch a flight test team to Korea to support the testing.
This news, which follows SKT's strategic investment of $100m in Joby in June 2023, secures the exclusive use of Joby's aircraft for the challenge. Grand Challenge test flights are expected to start next year.
Joby Aviation became the first eVTOL company to complete both the first and second stages of the FAA certification process and has also completed the submission of stage three certification plans. It launched production at its pilot production line in Marina, California in June and has selected Dayton, Ohio as the location for its first scaled manufacturing facility.
Going forward, SKT will align the UAM business with its vision of becoming an AI company; AI has the potential to play a transformative role in the aviation sector, minimising travel times and supporting autonomous flight in the future.
"This agreement marks a critical step on the road to making aerial ride-sharing a daily reality in Korea. We're incredibly proud to be partnering with SK Telecom to deliver flights as part of the Grand Challenge and look forward to demonstrating our revolutionary technology. We're grateful for the continued leadership of the Korean Government as it seeks to lead the way on the adoption of electric flight," says Joby head of product Eric Allison.
“Through this collaboration agreement, we will work closely with Joby Aviation to bring the world's most sophisticated aircraft to Korea and verify our capabilities for stable and safe UAM operations,” says Ha Min-yong, chief development officer of SKT. “Going forward, we will open an era of 'AI Mobility' by shifting the paradigm of mobility through the combination of UAM and AI.”