Moviation launches Korea’s first urban aerial mobility services

A Vonaer helicopter prepares to take off from a helipad at Jamsil Hangang Park in southeastern Seoul, Monday. Courtesy of Moviation

Moviation has launched Korea’s first urban aerial mobility (UAM) service, Vonaer, giving a time-saving boost to local transportation across areas with heavy traffic or geographic traits unfavorable to land mobility, according to the company, Monday.

Using chartered helicopters between established Von Ports, existing helipads or upcoming vertiports, Vonaer provides rides to passengers who book online through the platform’s smartphone app. Accepting reservations for slots every hour, the service platform carries passengers from Jamsil in southern Seoul to Incheon International Airport in 20 minutes, a trip taking about two hours by road.

From Jamsil to Yangjae in southern Seoul, a high-congestion route requiring around an hour of driving during rush hour, it takes just five minutes.

Moviation CEO Shin Min said that Vonaer invites an era where UAM, which has so far been largely limited to larger companies, costs ($319) for a one-way trip.

Moviation caters to customers with not just transportation but also sightseeing across tourism hotspots around Seoul, Incheon as well as the country’s west coast and the inter-Korean border region’s demilitarized zone. Users can also register their luggage for delivery to desired destinations.

“UAM has already penetrated throughout countries with advanced aviation technologies like the United States and Europe, boosting itself as a competitive urban mobility service based on well-established infrastructure and further development in progress. Their infrastructure and accumulated user-demand data have already begun propelling the future global UAM industry,” Shin said.

Shin said that to introduce a full-fledged UAM service to Korea, starting off with existing helicopters before deploying more advanced carriers is necessary to waste no time in establishing the UAM market here by promoting the service and preparing essential infrastructure.

“The UAM market is still in an immature state here in Korea. Our current objective with the six-month pilot program is to lay down a foundation by launching the service using helicopters,” Shin said. “It’ll then bridge the country’s existing aviation market and the looming UAM industry.”

Moviation, a small firm with 15 employees based in Seoul, currently possesses two mobility carriers, a Sikorsky S-76 for up to 11 passengers with a separate luggage space and a smaller helicopter for carrying passengers only. The company begins accepting reservations on Tuesday and the earliest service lifts off on June 25.

Moviation has a partnership with HeliKorea, one of five local helicopter operators here, to rent its carriers for the service. To expand the UAM market, Shin plans to sign carrier rental partnership deals with more operators and introduce more Von Ports here, most immediately in Yeouido.

Moviation currently faces regulatory hurdles posed by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, which has been enforcing regulations for UAM separately from helicopters — unlike in the United States, where both 안전 are treated as the same, according to Lee Hyun, Moviation’s chief strategy officer. Areas above the Han River are also designated off-limits to private carriers, forcing the firm to make detours and take longer routes.

“We’ll tackle one by one those regulations that have so far held back the country’s helicopter transportation business,” said Shin, who worked for 15 years on New York’s Wall Street before establishing Moviation in 2022. “In the meantime, we’ll focus on increasing our UAM service using helicopters, an internal combustion engine for electric vertical take-off and landing that will ultimately lead the future UAM industry.”

While the country’s airline companies like Korean Air have soared to a world-class level in the past decades, the helicopter mobility market has remained almost stagnant without enough attention or investments, according to Lee.

“Korea’s tourism industry has so far been underdeveloped without effective tools like helicopters or other aerial mobility services,” Lee said. “As we plan to increase our service networks and shorten the length and time for itinerary routes we provide, we’ll draw more customers and hope to lower our fares to below 300,000 won per person and make the service more available to the broader public.”

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