Drone airline Skyports Drone Services has launched a new project in Yeosu City, South Korea, for the delivery of pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs by drone. The project will be the first time Skyports Drone Services operates flights with new drone partner RigiTech.
The Yeosu City drone project, supported by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MoLIT), Korea Institute of Aviation Safety Technology (KIAST) and Yeosu City government, will provide inter-island drone deliveries within the coastal Yeosu region of Korea.
It is the first of a series of flight trials and proof-of-concept projects conducted by a drone services consortium made up of Skyports Drone Services Korea, Marine Drone Tech and RGB Lab. The first phase of the project launched in June this year and will continue until November.
Phase one of the project will see regular flights operated between the Yeosu mainland and three islands (Gaedo, Geumodo, Songdo) providing an airbridge for communities in hard-to-reach parts of the region.
Through the five-month project, the consortium aims to demonstrate the viability, safety and benefits of drone operations, and highlight how regular services can improve welfare, access, and connectivity for island residents and local businesses.
The beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) service will fly distances of 20-60km. Using a mobile application which has been developed for the project, island residents will be able to request the delivery or collection of a range of cargo, including:
Pharmaceutical goods (with the intent to carry more complex medical goods, such as pathology samples, in the future)
Restaurant food and groceries
Fresh seafood (such as sea urchins and octopus), caught by islanders and sold to restaurants on the mainland
For the aging island population, the drone delivery service provides a never before possible link to the mainland, bringing improved access to medical care and the delivery of foodstuffs, as well as the opportunity to sell their seafood and produce at a more competitive price.
The consortium will also explore the viability of postal deliveries in order to further improve access and connectivity levels for island residents.
The project will be conducted using RigiTech’s Eiger drone system, Skyports Drone Services new light payload electric VTOL aircraft. The Yeosu City project is the first commercial outing for the RigiTech Eiger since Skyports Drone Services and RigiTech began their partnership and follows months of extensive flight testing.
The Eiger has been selected due to its large volume 3kg payload and long distance BVLOS capability, which makes it well suited to the Yeosu geography.
The aircraft joins the similarly capable Swoop Aero Kookaburra III and Kite in the Skyports Drone Services fleet and will support the drone operator’s scale-up and contingency planning.
Mitchell Williams, Korea Country Manager at Skyports Drone Services, says: “Where better to launch our new partnership with RigiTech than in Skyports Drone Services’ newest market? We are thrilled to get the Eiger in the air to begin deliveries across the Yeosu region.
“The Yeosu City project has the essential ingredients we look for when launching a new project: appetite for innovation, local and governmental support, and a strong and scalable use case.
“Skyports Drone Services and our Korea consortium partners look forward to showing why how drone deliveries can connect remote communities in a meaningful and sustainable way.”
Adam Klaptocz, co-founder and CEO of RigiTech, says: “This project is a remarkable endeavour that aligns perfectly with our vision – Creating drone delivery networks that connect remote areas and improve quality of life, anywhere in the world.
“Our technology has been proven and recognised for its reliability, and now it’s time for it to shine in the dynamic and forward-thinking landscape of the Yeosu region.
“We’re excited to join the Skyports Drone Services’ project and fleet, to work together to push the boundaries of BVLOS flights in new continents as our own team keeps growing.”
A Yeosu City official says: “Yeosu City is set to lead the drone industry by expanding infrastructure to foster drone mobility, a new growth driver for the future, and conducting a drone logistics delivery demonstration project aimed to provide convenience for island residents, who live in a logistically vulnerable area.
“The project reflects the characteristics of the Yeosu region, which has 45 inhabited islands.”
Phase two of the project will review the benefits and use cases of the project and aim to scale the service, making it available in more locations and on a permanent basis.