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SKT invests $100m in Joby Aviation to ramp up UAM business

June 30, 2023 - 15:52 By Jo He-rim
SK Telecom CEO Ryu Young-sang (left) shakes hand with Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt after their meeting held on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show 2023 held in Las Vegas in January. (SK Telecom)

South Korean telecom giant SK Telecom announced late Thursday it will invest $100 million to acquire a 2 percent stake in US urban air mobility firm Joby Aviation.

The two forged the investment agreement on Tuesday, and vowed to strengthen their partnership in the UAM business further. The Korean mobile carrier first signed a strategic collaboration agreement with Joby Aviation in February 2022, which was expanded to include TMAP, South Korea’s largest mobility platform, in May 2022.

Joby Aviation is a US-based firm developing all-electric aircraft for commercial passenger service, boasting the highest airspeed of 322 kilometers per hour and the longest flight range of 241 kilometers on a single charge, according to SKT.

Under the agreement, SKT secured exclusive rights to the usage of Joby aircraft in South Korea, the company explained.

Joby said their agreement paves the way for it to participate alongside SKT in Korea’s “K-UAM Grand Challenge.” The project is a phased demonstration program, led by the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, which is designed to foster the adoption of aerial ridesharing in the country.

Joby said the latest investment is expected to lead to the development of further partnerships across the mobility ecosystem in Korea, led by SKT. The two sides will also work together on research and development in UAM technology.

“We will do our utmost to promote the demonstration and commercialization of urban air mobility in Korea, based on our partnership with Joby Aviation,” SKT CEO Ryu Young-sang said.

“This technology promises to greatly reduce customers’ travel time and we look forward to turning Korea into a mobility powerhouse," Ryu said.

Welcoming SKT’s investment, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt expressed commitment to develop a transformational air taxi service for Korea.

“Our partnership with SKT places Joby in the best possible position to capitalize on the opportunity presented by the Korean market, where we continue to see a strong drive from the government to realize aerial ridesharing," he said.