Japanese startup completes piloted flying car test

By on 8 September, 2020

A Toyota-backed flying car startup has cleared a big hurdle in its quest to have flying cars in the skies above Tokyo by 2025.

SkyDrive announced late last week that it had successfully completed its first piloted test flight, screening footage of its eight-propeller flying car prototype, the SD-03, being piloted smoothly at an altitude of about 2m.

A pilot was at the controls the entire flight, but a computer-assisted control system helped ensure flight stability and safety while technical staff at the field monitored flight conditions and aircraft performance at all times as backup.

“Of the world’s more than 100 flying car projects, only a handful has succeeded with a person on board,” SkyDrive’s CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa told The Associated Press. “I hope many people will want to ride it and feel safe.”

Despite being called a ‘flying car’, the SD-03 is missing a key car characteristic in its current incarnation: wheels.

The sleek aerodynamic styling however is reminiscent of an F1 race car, with four pairs of massive propellers and individually powered motors jutting out of the corners. It measures a compact two meters high by four meters wide and four meters long and requires only as much space on the ground as two parked cars.

According to SkyDrive, the aircraft has been designed to be the world’s smallest electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) model. Based on the results of SD-03 testing, the company aims to obtain approval for flights outside the limits of the Toyota Test Field before the end of 2020 and to have a commercial service in place by the middle of the decade.

The SD-03 bears a resemblance to Australian company Alauda’s multicopter that is currently in development and slated for a manned test flight in the coming year.

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