No less than 124 companies are participating in the Challenge (including Hyundai) as well as the prestigious Korea Aerospace Research Institute, and various foreign players, such as the eVTOL maker Joby Aviation and the infrastructure expert Skyport.
One of the aircraft manufacturers that’s ready to contribute to this major project is Plana Aero. Plana’s proposal is not the typical eVTOL, but a HeVTOL, meaning that it’s powered by a hybrid propulsion system. What’s interesting is that the aircraft is also meant to run on SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) which will help reduce its carbon footprint even more.
Like most VTOLs built with hybrid-electric powertrains, the main goal is an extended range. This air taxi would be able to carry between four to six passengers over 500 km (310 miles) while cruising at 300 kph (186 mph). At the same time, it will be able to cut carbon emissions drastically, compared to conventional helicopters, through the use of SAF.
Last month, Plana displayed a scaled-down prototype of its HeVTOL at the 2023 Drone Show Korea, the largest event in Asia that’s specifically designed for drones. And it looks like that was just the beginning of a very important year. That’s because the first demonstration flight of the battery-electric version is scheduled to take place towards the end of 2023.
After having secured a hefty sum at the end of a pre-series A funding round in 2022, the South Korean startup has now joined forces with an important partner, air carrier Jeju Air. The result of their collaboration will be part of the upcoming K-UAM Challenge.
But that’s not all for Plana. It also plans to open a branch office in the U.S. by the end of this year. That’s because it’s looking to get its future air taxi certified by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) as well, which means that the two need to work closely together.
Not as ambitious as other manufacturers when it comes to deadlines, Plana hopes to start selling its SAF-powered hybrid eVTOL in the U.S. by 2028.