South Korea conducted an unmanned test flight with crew of an 18-rotor plane that could be used for air taxi services in the future. The system is expected to reduce traffic congestion and will be fully operational in 2025.
The unusual aircraft designed by German developer Volocopter made a short trip at Seoul’s Gimpo Airport on Thursday. It was piloted by a person who flew in a specific air corridor.
The 3 km-long urban mobility (UAM), aircraft flew at 45kph for the five minutes. It was intended to test the operation of the aircraft in an airport environment where air traffic control is crucial for safe operation.
This two-seater plane uses an electric motor to drive 18 fixed-pitch propellers, similar to quadcopter drones. The aircraft made its maiden flying debut in 2013. The public flight test of the aircraft will take place in Incheon next week. It is located in the western portion of Seoul Capital Area.
South Korea announced last year plans to invest $65 million into UAM infrastructure. The government hopes to run air taxis commercially from 2025, ferrying solo passengers between Incheon International Airport and central Seoul at a cost of about $93 per trip – higher than a premium conventional taxi. UAMs, which are easier to accept and more controlled by computers than human pilots, are expected to bring down the cost of air taxis by fivefold.
Volocopter faces competition from OPPAV, a UAM located in the country. Korea Aerospace Research Institute, (KARI), the developer of Volocopter is planning to fly a fully-sized prototype next year.
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