News Article

Flying Cars Are Taking Off

By Alejandro Enríquez | Tue, 09/01/2020 - 16:08

This is not fiction. SkyDrive, a Toyota-backed company, has successfully conducted the first public manned flight with its SD-03 model in Japan. "We are extremely excited to have achieved Japan’s first-ever manned flight with a flying car after two years since we founded SkyDrive," said Tomohiro Fukuzawa, CEO of the company, on a statement.

In 2017, Toyota decided to invest an initial amount of ¥40 million (US$352,982) in the Cartivator group, as the project was called at that time. Today, SkyDrive is a world-leading developer of urban air mobility solutions, which also includes delivery drones.

The SD-03 model has been designed to be the world's smallest electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle, according to SkyDrive. The aircraft conducted the first public demonstration of a flying car in Japan. The flight took place at one of Toyota's test fields. "This is the culmination of SkyDrive’s achievements regarding technical verification. We will continue to develop technologies and acquire type certification so that safe and secure flying car operation services can be launched in FY23," said Nobuo KISHI, CTO of SkyDrive.

The aircraft’s powertrain includes an electric motor that drive eight rotors divided in pairs at four different location of the aircraft. Each pair rotates in opposite directions and is driven by its own motor. According to SkyDrive, using a different motor for each rotor ensures safety in emergency situations, which will help to comply with standards and potential regulatory concerns.

SkyDrive plans to carry on with testing flights under different conditions to improve its technology and foresee any scenarios related to safety provisions. In late 2020, the company expects to get approval for flights outside Toyota’s test field. "We aim to take our social experiment to the next level in 2023 and to that end, we will be accelerating our technological and business development. We want to create a world where flying cars are an accessible and convenient means of transportation and where people are able to experience a safe, secure, and comfortable new way of life," said Fukuzawa. The company will accelerate its plans to develop potential markets for flying cars around the world in collaboration with its partner companies. "An urban air mobility society with aircraft supplied by SkyDrive (could) become a reality not only in Japan but also across the globe," he said.

Just as the company announced the successful conclusion of its flying test, it also announced a ¥3.9 billion (US$36.8 million) Series B fundraising from a series of investors including the Development Bank of Japan, as well as automotive players such as Sumitomo, Obayashi Corporation and NEC Corporation.

Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst