Hyundai ANRA uam drone

Hyundai is studying drone traffic management in hopes of building a fleet of flying cars

Korean automobile giant Hyundai is getting into the drone industry. Hyundai has got its own Urban Air Mobility Division, which announced in June that it would start developing drone traffic management technology.

Its research is being done in partnership with ANRA Technologies, one of the more established UTM (unmanned traffic management) providers out there that also provides end-to-end drone operations for other companies. Together, Hyundai and ANRA intend to develop an operating environment for unmanned vehicles, including researching opportunities to help inform regulatory decisions and advance infrastructure projects.

“We are pleased…to begin building toward the safe and efficient integration of AAM (advanced air mobility) into existing airspace,” said Pamela Cohn, chief operating officer, Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group. “As an emerging mobility solution, it is critical diverse parties work together to co-create the AAM ecosystem, including its necessary digital and physical infrastructure.”

Hyundai and ANRA autonomous aviation management system

Prior to its ANRA partnership, Hyundai partnered with Uber Elevate in 2020 to develop Uber Air Taxis for a future aerial ride share network. Together, the team even unveiled a full-scale aircraft concept at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). That made Hyundai the first automotive company to join the Uber Elevate initiative (though Uber has since offloaded its air taxi enterprise Elevate to another company, Joby Aviation).

Hyundai and Uber Announce Aerial Ridesharing Partnership, Release New Full-Scale Air Taxi Model at CES
A model of the drone that would have existed had the Hyundai and Uber Elevate partnership panned out.

Hyundai has also done a number of tests around urban air mobility, including a major test at Korea’s Incheon International Airport.

As far as ANRA? ANRA has been slowly making big partnerships with major, non-drone companies besides just Hyundai. The company recently launched a drone delivery program in partnership with India’s largest food delivery app, Swiggy. ANRA also has close ties to the government, and holds important positions including sitting on the FAA’s new BVLOS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). That’s important for Hyundai given that right now, most drone use cases that come to mind including — yes — flying cars are not possible unless drones can fly outside of the operator’s line of sight — which is currently not permitted by the FAA without a BVLOS waiver. And right now, BVLOS waivers are incredibly tough to get.

ANRA is also known for its Anra SmartSkies Delivery software. The software is hardware-agnostic, meaning that any drone — whether it’s an off-the-shelf DJI drone or a custom-built drone — can fly via the software and theoretically conduct drone deliveries or carry passengers as an unmanned vehicle (assuming the drone itself is capable of carrying those payloads).

Spot Boston Dynamics 360 Walkthrough
The Spot robot, from Boston Dynamics (now owned by Hyundai), can work with DroneDeploy’s 360Walkthrough.

With Hyundai’s new relationship with ANRA, that also means Hyundai could likely have a seat at the table when it comes to getting chosen to be a leader in drones and ultimately flying cars.

Learn more: 5 things that need to happen before UTM systems can lift off

Hyundai is no stranger to being a leader in emerging tech of all sorts. Also this month, Hyundai acquired a controlling interest in Boston Dynamics from SoftBank. Boston Dynamics is arguably the top leader in developing agile, mobile robots, including that creepy cool parkour robot or Spot, which can use DroneDeploy tech to allow workers to autonomously capture data from building interiors and take close-up photos for the bid process or inspection. 

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