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Urban air mobility

Hyundai Motor hires US aerospace expert as UAM business CTO

By Feb 24, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun discusses the company's urban air mobility vision.
Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun discusses the company's urban air mobility vision.

Hyundai Motor Co. has hired a US aerospace expert as the chief technology officer of its urban air mobility (UAM) business as part of the automotive group’s goal to become a future mobility provider.

Ben Diachun, former chief executive of Opener, an aerospace startup in Palo Alto, California, will bring 20 years of engineering and experience in aircraft to Hyundai, the top South Korean automaker said in a statement on Feb. 24.

Ben Diachun, Hyundai Motor's UAM business CTO
Ben Diachun, Hyundai Motor's UAM business CTO
Diachun also worked as president of Scaled Composites LLC., a Mojave, Calif.-based firm known for creating revolutionary new aircraft and spacecraft.

"His track record of building groundbreaking aircraft ... is critical to our mission to develop the best and most innovative design for our UAM vehicles," said Hyundai Motor President Shin Jai-won, who is in charge of the UAM division.

Shin, a former aeronautics expert who worked at NASA in the US, joined Hyundai in September 2019 to lead the UAM division.

Over the course of his career, Diachun helped develop 16 groundbreaking aerospace vehicles, including SpaceShipOne, the first commercial manned spaceship, and BlackFly, an electric personal air vehicle.

Diachun earned a master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. He serves on the board of directors of the Experimental Aircraft Association and is an industry advisor to Purdue University's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

HYUNDAI’S FUTURE GROWTH ENGINE

Hyundai aims to bring its UAM vehicles to the market by 2028, as the group is shifting its business focus toward UAM and other future mobility solutions.

Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun, who took the group’s leadership in October of last year, has said that the automaker will shift its business portfolio breakdown so that automobiles account for half of its sales, followed by UAM with 30% and robotics at 20%.

During the 2020 US Consumer Electric Show, Hyundai unveiled its urban air mobility initiative, as well as showcasing its S-A1 air vehicle concept equipped with an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) system.

Hyundai plans to invest $1.5 billion in UAM over the next five years to cultivate new business opportunities in future mobility.

Hyundai Motor's urban aircraft concept with vertical take-off and landing capabilities
Hyundai Motor's urban aircraft concept with vertical take-off and landing capabilities

In late January, the UK’s Air-One project, in which Hyundai Motor is a technology partner, has been chosen as the winner of the UK government’s “Future Flight Change,” aimed at developing aviation infrastructure and systems.

British mobility firm Urban-Air Port Ltd, which runs the project, plans to launch the world’s first fully operational hub for future electric urban aircraft in Coventry by November of this year.

Write to Sun A Lee at suna@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.
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