Hyundai opens UAM division, hires ex-NASA exec to lead


There’s no time to be wasted at Hyundai. The company has become the latest car manufacturer to enter the urban air mobility market with the creation of its own urban air mobility division. And it has hired former NASA aviation R&D head Dr Jaiwon Shin to lead this new initiative.

The new division will work to develop “smart mobility products within the aviation industry”, according to a company press release.

During his time at NASA, Hyundai’s new appointee oversaw a $725 million program to develop new aviation projects, including the cancelled NASA supersonic aircraft prototype – the X-Plane. Dr Shin also helped develop NASA’s electric aircraft program, UAS traffic management and urban air mobility projects.

Commenting on his new position, Dr Shin said: “Having worked on cutting-edge aviation research and development at NASA for 30 years, I am very excited and humbled by the opportunity to now shape urban air mobility strategy at Hyundai Motor Group.

“The new team at Hyundai will develop core technologies that will establish the company as a driving force in urban air mobility, a sector that is expected to grow into a market worth USD 1.5 trillion within the next 20 years.”

Outside of his work at NASA, Dr Shin also co-chaired the White House National Science and Technology Council’s Aeronautics Science & Technology subcommittee. He is a graduate of Virginia Polytecnic Institute and State University with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Join the club

Hyundai is the latest automobile manufacturer to dip its toes into the urban air mobility space. Last year, Aston Martin revealed its eVTOL prototype at the Farnborough Airshow. The car maker showed off concept art of the eVTOL and has remained quiet ever since.

Elsewhere, Toyota has invested in eVTOL company SkyDrive, which is developing the eVTOL ‘Cartivator’ as its own. SkyDrive recently received an additional 1.5 billion yen ($13.8 million) in funding. Demonstration flights of the eVTOL are expected to come in summer 2020, with the aircraf’s commercial launch in 2023.

Lastly, Audi is working with Airbus and design firm Italdesign to develop the Pop.Up Next, a modular self-driving car and VTOL.