SKT invests US$100m in Joby Aviation

SK Telecom (NYSE: SKM, “SKT”), Korea’s leading mobile operator rapidly expanding its presence as an AI company, and Joby Aviation, a California-based company developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, today announced that SKT has invested USD 100 million to acquire approximately 2 percent stake in Joby Aviation.

SKT and Joby Aviation have been working together since they signed a strategic collaboration agreement in February 2022. With the equity investment, the two companies will further solidify and expand their cooperation in the UAM business, and SKT will be better positioned to take a leading role in the UAM business in Korea.

Joby Aviation has unrivalled technological capabilities in the development of eVTOL aircraft for Urban Air Mobility (UAM). A full-size prototype of the Joby aircraft holds the record of flying 241 km at a speed of 330 km/h, which is the fastest flight of any eVTOL aircraft to date. Also, Joby was the first eVTOL company to sign a G-1 (stage 4) certification basis with the FAA. It is also collaborating with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and has signed a contract with the United States Air Force to deliver and operate its aircraft.

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

Today’s investment is also expected to lead to the development of further partnerships across the mobility ecosystem in Korea, led by SKT.

Moreover, the two companies agreed to explore the idea of extending their collaboration more widely into the overseas markets in the long term.

As a company rapidly shaping into an AI company, SKT is actively promoting UAM, which can be realised through the application of cutting-edge ICT technologies including AI. AI technologies are expected to be utilised in various parts of the UAM business, including aerial network communications and traffic control, and SKT plans to draw upon its rich pool of AI technologies to popularise UAM services and boost the ecosystem.

SKT also unveiled its vision of expanding its role from a mobile operator to a mobility operator that opens new frontiers in mobility.

At present, UAM is being highlighted as a new mobility service that can solve traffic congestion and carbon emissions, and many countries around the world, including the US, UK, France and Japan, are working actively to launch the service. In Korea, led by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the first phase of the K-UAM Grand Challenge will be implemented in Goheung, Jeollanam-do from August 2023 to December 2024 and the second phase will take place in the Seoul Metropolitan Area from July 2024 to June 2025, followed by commercialisation of UAM in 2025.

“Based on cooperation with Joby Aviation, we will do our utmost to promote the UAM demonstration program and achieve UAM commercialisation in Korea,” said Ryu Young-sang, CEO of SKT. “We will greatly reduce customers’ travel time with our UAM service and rapidly advance our UAM technologies to help turn Korea into a mobility powerhouse.”

“Our partnership with SKT places Joby in the best possible position to capitalise on the opportunity presented by the Korean market, where we continue to see a strong drive from the government to realise aerial ridesharing in Korea,” said JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby Aviation. “We’re grateful for SKT’s commitment to Joby and look forward to working with them as we develop a transformational air taxi service for Korea.”

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