Manned flying car in Japan


On 25 August 2020, SkyDrive Inc. conducted the first manned public demonstration of their flying car, the SD-03, in Japan. This marks a significant step towards the future advent of flying cars.


World’s smallest eVTOL


japan flying car - sd-03
Image credit: SkyDrive

The new SD-03 flying car model is designed to be the world’s smallest electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) model. It measures only 2m (H) x 4m (W) x 4m (L), equivalent to the size of 2 parked cars.

japan flying car - getting ready
SkyDrive getting ready for the test flight
Image adapted from: SkyDrive Inc

japan flying car - ready for take-off
Pilot, Toshiro Ando, getting ready for take-off
Image adapted from: SkyDrive Inc

The test flight was conducted at the 10,000-sqm Toyota Test Field, one of the largest in Japan. The car took off and circled the field for 4 minutes before landing back at the same spot.

The SkyDrive SD-03 is powered by 8 motors and has 2 propellers on each corner. The motors serve to ensure safety in emergency situations and fulfil potential regulatory concerns as the car has 7 other motors to continue functioning if 1 motor fails. Since it can take off and land vertically, it doesn’t need a runway.

japan flying car - pilot
Toshiro Ando, chief engineer and test pilot for SkyDrive Inc., completing 1st manned public test flight.
Image adapted from: SkyDrive Inc

Toshiro Ando piloted the successful attempt of the SD-03’s first manned flight. The next step for the SD-03 vehicle is to obtain approval for test flights outside of the Toyota Test Field.  


Flying cars a norm by 2023


According to The Japan Times, the Japanese government is making large investments in companies such as SkyDrive to spur the development of flying cars and commercialise it by 2023.

japan flying car - 2023 concept model
Concept model pictures for SkyDrive 2-seater flying cars
Image credit: SkyDrive

japan flying car - 2023 concept model 2
Concept model pictures for SkyDrive 2-seater flying cars
Image credit: SkyDrive

With flying cars, the airspace can also be used to transport people. It can help us reach places that aren’t accessible by land or even send aid to dangerous areas hit by natural disasters. 


Other flying car attempts


SkyDrive Inc. is not the only one in the race to perfect the flying car.

japan flying car - airbus
The CityAirbus
Image credit: Airbus

The CityAirbus, developed by Airbus, made its first public flight on 29 July 2020, in front of Bavarian Minister-President, Markus Söder, and the media. The vehicle was unmanned and remotely piloted.

japan flying car - boeing
Aurora Flight Sciences Passenger Air Vehicle on its first flight in January 2019
Image adapted from: Aurora

Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing’s subsidiary, conducted the first test flight of its all-electric passenger air vehicle in January 2019. The unpiloted vehicle managed to take off vertically, hovering in the air for a few seconds before landing. 

Following this, Porsche partnered with Boeing and Aurora Flight Sciences to produce a luxury, all-electric flying car that can cater to short hops across cities.

japan flying car - porsche
Image credit: Porsche


Fly without wings


SkyDrive’s SD-03 has aced the first manned public test flight and is the smallest among its peers. In principle, eVTOL vehicles like SD-03 offer quick point-to-point personal travel without the inconvenience of traffic jams or the cost of hiring pilots. But in reality, it can only be made possible if companies overcome challenges such as battery sizes, safety, and air traffic control. 

Check out these articles for more Japanese innovations:

Cover image adapted from: SkyDrive Inc

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