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Asia Minute: Air taxis on the way in South Korea

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

If your commute involves heavy traffic, you may have wondered if there’s a better way to get around. One country in Asia is focusing research on a route that could take you over that traffic — and someday do that without a pilot.

South Korea is putting air taxis on a fast track.

The idea is to move passengers from a crowded city like Seoul to the airport for example, and to make that trip in about a third of the time it takes now.

Think of something smaller than a helicopter but much bigger than a drone that you may see at a park or at the beach.

Imagine traveling on one between 1,000 and 2,000 feet above the ground and you’ll get a feel for what researchers call the “urban air mobility market.”

South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport recently announced the country is on track to launch air taxi services with pilots by 2025.

By 2030, they’ll be remote-controlled — by 2035, the ministry says they’ll be fully autonomous — no pilots.

Work like this is going on all over the world — NASA is experimenting with an electric version being developed in the United States.

South Korea’s government is trying to coordinate efforts with the country’s industrial leaders — from automakers like Hyundai to wireless operator SK Telecom to Korean Air.

The ministry projects that in less than 20 years, global demand for this specialty market will top $600 billion.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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