The first-ever manned flights of a flying car have taken place in a public demonstration.
SkyDrive entered the final stages of testing of the flying car at the Toyota Test Field, one of the largest in Japan and home to the car company’s development base in Toyota, on 25 August, the company said in a news release.
It was the first public demonstration of a flying car in the history of Japan.
SkyDrive CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa said in a statement that he hopes “the flying car” can be made into a real-life product by 2023, but he acknowledged that making it safe was critical.
“Of the world’s more than 100 flying car projects, only a handful has succeeded with a person on board,” he told The Associated Press.
“I hope many people will want to ride it and feel safe.”
The machine so far can fly for just five to 10 minutes but if that can become 30 minutes, it will have more potential, including exports to places like China, Fukuzawa said.
The car, named SD-03, manned with a pilot, took off and circled the field for about four minutes.
“We are extremely excited to have achieved Japan’s first-ever manned flight of a flying car in the two years since we founded SkyDrive… with the goal of commercialising such aircraft,” said SkyDrive CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa.
“We want to realise a society where flying cars are an accessible and convenient means of transportation in the skies and people are able to experience a safe, secure, and comfortable new way of life.”
The SD-03 is the world’s smallest electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle and takes up the space of about two parked cars, according to SkyDrive. It has eight motors to ensure “safety in emergency situations”.
“In designing an unexplored, new genre of transportation known as the flying car, we chose the keyword ‘progressive’ for inspiration,” SkyDrive design director Takumi Yamamot said.
“We wanted this vehicle to be futuristic, charismatic and desirable for all future customers, while fully incorporating the high technology of SkyDrive.”
In Japan, flying cars are anticipated to be used for taxi services in urban areas, as a new mode of transportation on remote islands and mountainous areas, and as a means of emergency transportation in the event of a disaster. Flying cars are inexpensive, quieter, and require compact space for takeoff and landing compared to conventional aircraft. They are expected to make flying a routine form of mobility, SkyDrive said.
SkyDrive has completed its technical verification phase.
“Since launching an unmanned outdoor flight test in December 2018, it has conducted numerous technical verifications. Manned flight tests that started in December 2019 and completed safely in March 2020 – confirming the controllability and flight stability of the test aircraft. The next stage, which is starting now, involves feeding back improvements to technical design that were picked up during the manned operation of the aircraft,” SkyDrive said.
SkyDrive looks set to launch its flying car to the Japanese market in 2023. Safety is a key priority and it will be following the same level of development management that is practiced by conventional aircraft manufacturers during the airworthiness certification phase.