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[Newsletter] Quaternion Soars through the Skies of Jeju

Safe and Convenient Everyday Life with Drones 

"In line with Jeju Province's policy to foster the drone industry, Quaternion is also expanding its activities. We are engaged in the discovery and demonstration of commercialization services such as safety monitoring and drone logistics transportation using drones. Quaternion is soaring towards becoming a specialized platform company in the drone industry, encompassing the production of customized drones and the cultivation of professional engineers responsible for drone programs." 

- Noh Jeongho, Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

From the Lab to the Field 

Korea Aerospace University (KAU) is focusing on the drone industry, a leading technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, targeting the drone market driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G. Since the 2021 academic year, KAU has been nurturing talent in this field by establishing the Department of Smart Drone Engineering. At the heart of this initiative is Quaternion, the leading academic-industrial cooperation group of Korea Aerospace University.

Q  Quaternion has set itself apart from other drone-centered companies from the beginning. What was the motivation behind its founding? 

Quaternion is a specialized drone company founded by Professor Song Yongkyu, along with graduate and doctoral researchers from the Department of Smart Drone Engineering, School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Korea Aerospace University. To transition drone research conducted in the academic setting into a business, we focused on designing drone airframes, developing flight control systems, and safety solutions. 

Since its founding in 2018, Quaternion employees who left the campus lab have been working to expand the concept and utilization of drones. Drones are a highly anticipated field both domestically and internationally, but they are mostly known to the public for hobbies, unmanned flights, aerial photography, and drone shows. Quaternion is actively involved in researching and developing drones for social safety systems, including solutions for public safety and accident prevention. We are mass-producing customized drone products for various business sectors using our proprietary technology.

Q  I heard that Quaternion's drone technology would be part of a new project in Jeju Province. 

Jeju has been selected as a drone demonstration city by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport in 2023. Quaternion will participate in a drone delivery service demonstration on Gapado Island, Jeju (with around 130 households) in preparation for the commercialization of drone delivery (aiming to transition to a paid service available for real users).

Given the nature of Jeju Island, transportation between the main island and neighboring islands is heavily influenced by weather conditions. A drone delivery service can become a useful tool for delivering fresh seafood caught by haenyeo (women divers) and serve as a smart assistant that transports urgent daily necessities. Scheduled to be launched later this year between Unjin Port on the southern tip of Jeju's west coast and Gapado, the drone delivery service will utilize large drones to transport goods from the main island to Gapado, and then small drones will complete the last-mile delivery from the Gapado marina to individual households. Quaternion will be responsible for this last-mile delivery service. If the project yields positive results, it is expected to enhance the convenience and livelihoods of Jeju residents.

Drone Usage From Public Safety to Commercial Services 

Q  I heard that drones had been used as military reconnaissance aircraft even before they became popularized. 

The essence of drones lies in attaching imaging devices to small aircraft to overcome spatial constraints and obtain necessary information through free flight in areas that are difficult for us to access. The range visible to humans is limited, and traditional long-range reconnaissance tools such as helicopters, airplanes, and satellites also have restricted coverage. Moreover, cost constraints further compounded the limitations. However, with the advancement and popularization of drone technology, drones now play a crucial role in ensuring our everyday safety.

Quaternion specializes in public safety solutions using drones. Since 2021, we have been collaborating with the National Institute of Meteorological Sciences to conduct research on the development of technology for weather drone operations and utilization in disaster sites. Through this research, we have provided ideas for drones specialized in weather observation and have been working on developing systems to increase the reception rate of weather observation data. This is possible because Quaternion operates a total platform that combines AI technology with customized drone design, manufacturing, and operation.


Q  What distinguishes Quaternion's drone technology from others? 

In fact, it is challenging to find experts in drone-related technologies in the Korean drone industry. Many end up working in academia, national research institutions, or large corporations. Due to the high cost of manufacturing drones, most companies source parts from overseas and assemble the drones, leading to a lack of research and development teams and a shortage of specialized engineers.

Quaternion possesses a small drone mission equipment solution and proprietary flight control computer (hardware/software) technology. We have implemented a wired drone safety solution for preventing accidents in tidal areas in Seosan, Chungcheongnam-do, and are currently monitoring safety in Han River parks in Seoul.

Additionally, we have been researching traffic management systems for UAM (Urban Air Mobility) and unmanned flight devices for future mobility. The most significant differentiating factor is our ability to plan, develop, design, and manufacture customized drones that perfectly match the collaboration requirements and situations. 

Q  Will drone delivery services be the first commercialized drone application? 

Robots and drones will play significant roles in the future society. According to the innovation roadmap for the "Smart Logistics Mobility Ecosystem" announced by the government last year, "drone delivery" is already a part of our daily lives.

Drone delivery, also known as aerial logistics, has already been initiated by companies like Amazon and Flirtey in the United States. In Korea, it has been used to deliver medical kits to isolated areas or deliver parcels and registered mail to remote regions. For drone delivery to become widely adopted, it requires advanced technology to improve the operational capabilities of the aircraft itself, as well as the development of drone flight paths and the passage of relevant legal sandboxes. In the case of Jeju, with the active participation of the local government, cooperation has been strengthened with local drone-related agencies.

Expanding Infrastructure and Developing Talent 

Quaternion's crew

Q  As a company focused on the future industry of drones, your biggest asset must be your technology. 

As a fifth-year startup, Quaternion owes its recognition to the researchers and Professor Song Yonggyu, who serves as the CEO, all of whom have specialized knowledge in drones. This ultimately emphasizes the importance of strong technological capabilities and continuous research and development investment to pioneer the still uncharted commercial drone market. For this purpose, a favorable research environment and talent acquisition are essential.

Quaternion is preparing to establish an office in Jeju, thanks to its "drone ecosystem" suitable for our business and the provincial government's capabilities to address administrative issues. Additionally, we are participating in the Regional Innovation System (RIS, collaborative initiatives between local governments, universities, and companies) to foster local talent and connect them with employment opportunities. We value this investment because we aim to cultivate drone developers and engineers and recruit them to further grow Quaternion through collaboration with Jeju National University and industrial cooperation.

The future of the drone business depends on securing the necessary technology, and that technology comes from researchers and team members. Along with nurturing local talent, establishing a Jeju office will facilitate us to recruit drone operators and developers from the mainland.

Towards a Total Drone Platform 

Demonstration site of drone delivery connecting Unjin Port and Gapado Island in Jeju

Q   What is Quaternion's vision for the future? 

Quaternion takes its name from quaternions, which represent the three-dimensional rotation balance, and the term is commonly used in the aviation industry as an aerodynamic concept. We selected this name to reflect our approach to exploring and advancing drones from a comprehensive and balanced perspective. Our ultimate goal is to establish ourselves as a company that covers all aspects of drones from A to Z. We aspire to be a leading example in the drone industry, with exceptional talent driving our success. With a vision to become a specialized drone company with technical capabilities to plan, design, and manufacture drones tailored to specific situations and purposes, and with the support of a dedicated team of researchers and field engineers, Quaternion continues to fly drones into the sky even today. 

"We aim to be known for our safety and technology in the drone industry. 

Please pay attention to Quaternion's strengths in technology and flexibility. As a startup originating from a campus research lab, we understand the importance of talent development. 

Therefore, we have high expectations for participating in the RIS project, which will allow us to meet talented individuals in Jeju. 

Let's pioneer the drone era together with Quaternion."