Korean Air signed an agreement with Supernal, Hyundai Motor Group’s US independent air mobility company, on October 17 at the 2023 Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Industry Exhibition (ADEX 2023).
ADEX is Korea’s largest aerospace and defense industries exhibition at Seoul Airport in Seongnam from October 17 to 22. This year, 550 companies from 35 countries are participating.
Korean Air is showcasing its medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAVs, military UAVs, mobile launch pad, and ground control system (GCS) at the outdoor exhibition area. Various platforms, such as multipurpose stealth UAVs, stealth loyal wingman, and tactical UAVs, are displayed in the indoor exhibition area.
Korean Air’s MALE UAV Program
Korean Air’s MALE UAV is a high-performance surveillance drone used by the Korean army for real-time monitoring of enemy targets. It has stealth features to minimize radar detection, and a squadron of these drones can operate alongside a crewed aircraft. Korean Air has also developed VTOL UAVs, which combine the vertical take-off and landing capabilities of helicopters with the speed of fixed-wing aircraft, making them suitable for mountainous terrain.
Developing Korean National Aerospace Sector
Korean Air serves the Korean national aerospace and defense industry, supporting the sector by developing products and services. Their objectives extend to UAM operations. The airline is also developing UAM operation control and traffic management systems.
The airline is establishing and standardizing UAM operational concepts and procedures. It applies its experiences in flight operation and control in passenger and cargo transportation.
Through their collaboration, Korean Air and Supernal aim to build and develop the ecosystem and environment necessary for urban air mobility (UAM) operations and its commercialization in Korea. The two companies have also agreed to develop eVTOL vehicles compatible with the Korean UAM operational environment and market.
How Korean Air and Supernal Will Advance Korean UAM
Supernal has agreed with Korean Air to collaborate on developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles and Korea’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) ecosystem. The partnership includes sharing technical data, participating in workshops, and working on development programs for safe eVTOL operations. Korean Air will provide market insights and inform Supernal’s product and market development strategies for the Korean market. The companies will also explore testing methods for Supernal’s eVTOL vehicle and AAM infrastructure networks. This partnership is a significant step towards advancing eVTOL technology and the AAM industry in Korea.
“A core part of our strategy to advance Advanced Air Mobility is the need for robust collaboration and partnerships with industry leaders like Korean Air,” said Jaiwon Shin, president of Hyundai Motor Group and CEO of Supernal. “Korean Air’s expertise in building scalable aviation systems, together with Supernal’s vision for mobility, will help usher in this exciting new era of air travel and bring us closer to global AAM operations.”
Korea is implementing strategies to facilitate Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) operations. They utilize 5G and LTE mobile communication for seamless information flow among pilots. The government plans dedicated AAM operating corridors, separate from helicopters, to ensure safe and efficient flight between vertiports. These corridors optimize routes and minimize interaction with other aircraft types.
Korean Air Provides Guidance on UAM Requirements and Customer Experience
Korean Air, the largest airline in South Korea, actively contributes to developing the country’s aviation industry. They are expected to advance AAM significantly, including sharing their expertise with Supernal on passenger experience and operational aspects.
Korean Air also participates in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport’s UAM surveillance system development project as a joint research partner. The company is developing operational control and operator simulation systems for UAM operations.
“We will cooperate in deriving requirements for eVTOL aircraft optimized for UAM operations based on Korean Air’s accumulated data on aircraft operation and customer boarding experience,” said Keehong Woo, CEO of Korean Air. “Based on this, we will strive to develop a business model and build an operating ecosystem suitable for Korea’s environment.”
Supernal plans to develop elements for a global AAM ecosystem, including aftermarket products and services, mobility solutions, infrastructure networks, and workforce expansion. The aim is to integrate eVTOL vehicles into existing transportation networks in the future.