South Korea has been looking for ways to commercialize drones.
Some of the ways that have been considered include use in convenience stores, with some having already launched a drone delivery service in hard-to-reach mountainous areas of the country.
There are also plans to extend the service to urban areas.
Reporting by Shin Ha-young.
Here in this convenience store, a basket of items is on its way to the drone station for delivery.
7-Eleven is one of the leading convenience store chains in the commercialization of drones in South Korea with its drone delivery service.
“This is an autonomous drone with its destination pre-set on this pension. When you use this drone delivery service, it only takes about 3 minutes to get what you ordered from the convenience store which is about a mile from here.”
Behind the fast delivery is a control tower, where the whole process is carefully monitored, from flight paths to emergency situations.
The service comes as delivery in mountainous areas often proves difficult or inconvenient.
“It is difficult for people in mountainous areas or remote areas to use online delivery services. That’s why we planned to offer drone delivery to these customers.”
And as the company expected, customers were satisfied with the service.
“People order up to 10 items on weekends. It’s helpful, especially for those who can’t drive after drinking. I ordered ice cream and it didn’t melt because the delivery didn’t melt. only took a few minutes.”
Other convenience store chains are also gearing up or have already launched their own drone delivery service.
As a result, drones flying around South Korea could become a familiar sight in just a few years.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the country’s drone market has grown rapidly and is expected to reach 800 billion Korean won, or just over US$600 million, by 2024.
Meanwhile, US retail giants like Walmart and Amazon have already put drones to work.
So what about the South Korean drone industry? Is it ready to go to market?
A drone company executive points out that regulations need to be improved first.
“Drone companies have been discussing with the government the direction of policymaking, such as allowing drone companies to expand drone delivery business to cities. However, in terms of speed, there is a gap between national legislation and technology development.”
Meanwhile, the government has announced that it will provide guidelines for the delivery of drones in the second half of this year.
A bill for flying taxis will be tabled by the end of August, with the service aiming to start by 2025.
The country is also strengthening its technological competitiveness by promoting joint R&D between several ministries.
An expert says the drone industry is expected to grow further if the government deals with institutional factors.
“In urban areas, there are security issues and not enough testing is done regarding the radio wave environment, which is easily disturbed. If the government addresses these issues, the drone industry may develop further.”
He added that the cost of drones is another factor that needs to be considered as the price may be out of reach for small businesses that want to use them.
Shin Ha-young, Arirang News.