Japanese start-up’s prototype ‘car’ takes flight
TOKYO — The Tokyo-based start-up SkyDrive Inc. recently unveiled its “flying car” and conducted a manned flight test in front of the press.
The prototype is a one-seat model that looks like a combination of a small aircraft and a drone. It is four meters long, four meters wide and two meters tall.
The flying car has eight propellers and floated about two meters off the ground before flying for about three minutes over a distance of 150 meters at 4 kph during its test flight in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, on Tuesday.
Aiming to put the machine to commercial use in fiscal 2023, the company — founded mostly by former Toyota Motor Corp. employees — has been testing its flying car since December last year to further its development.
SkyDrive announced it secured ¥3.9 billion from 10 companies, including Development Bank of Japan, NEC Corp. and Itochu Corp., on Friday. The company will make further improvements to the flying car and, if successful, it plans to have the machine be utilized by the taxi business in Osaka City’s bay area in fiscal 2023.
However, to make it happen, it is vital that the government’s safety standards and airspace rules be improved for the aircraft’s operation.
“The flying car will make air travel more accessible [to residents living] in Japan where land is scarce and airports are not conveniently located,” said Tomohiro Fukuzawa, SkyDrive president and a former Toyota employee.
The market for flying cars is expected to grow to $1.5 trillion (¥160 trillion) by around 2040, according to Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC.
Toyota invested more than ¥40 billion in January in a U.S. company that is developing a flying car fuselage.
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