A South Korean UAV startup wants to deploy drones to save lives but it may need to be rescued from a sea of government regulation to survive.
In 2015, Incheon-based Soomvi developed the S-200 Rescue drone, a quadcopter that can drop flotation devices to drowning swimmers as well as patrol waterways for maritime search and rescue.
However, Soomvi’s Overseas Strategy Manager Park Sung-youl feels like he’s drowning in red tape as his company attempts to get official approval to deploy.
“We need to get permission from at least four government agencies when we test fly drones in Seoul,” Park said in a recent interview with Yonhap News Agency. “It feels like our hands are tied,” he added.
While South Korea does not expressly prohibit all drone flights, Park says there is often a lack of communication in how UAVs are regulated.
“Governments around the world are engaged in active discussions on how to ease rules on drones. But in Korea, there hasn’t been much discussion on the issue,” he said.
There is hope. Yonhap writer Woo Jae-yeon points out that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport recently announced new measures to “expand drone zones, loosen up rules to produce more drone pilots, and create a one-stop agency to give out drone flying permissions.”
“At the same time, the government plans to push ahead with more extensive application of drones in areas like dam and land inspections, wild fire monitoring and delivery,” Woo added.
That may be great news for Soomvi – the company’s target customers are cruise ships, port authorities, maritime police and oceanography researchers. The S-200 boasts high-def cameras and real-time video telemetry that can be relayed to rescue agencies or maritime companies looking to monitor hull conditions on ships. The company says its reaction time is 10 times faster than the suggested four-minute window for successful rescue operations.
The company has gained some attention from top South Korean ministries and organizations. Several recently provided glowing references for Soomvi’s application to become a vendor to the United Nations.
Soomvi’s startup efforts come at a time when South Korea is seeking a more robust entry into the drone industry. President Park Geun-hye recently announced a bold plan to help her country tap into the UAV sector following a recent appearance at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute.
″Korea is the world′s fifth-largest auto producer and seventh in terms of drone technology. If we come up with a strategy and focus on increasing our capabilities, we will be able to catch up to the leading nations.″ Park said. ″Right now, developing the technology is important, but the speed of development is equally important.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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