Japan's 'flying car' successfully completes first public flight
In a major development, a flying car has taken off in Japan for the first time. The vehicle, developed by Toyota-backed SkyDrive, flew as part of a test flight, marking a big step forward in the global push to make cars that can fly, perhaps even ferry passengers from one point to another within a city one day. Here's all about SkyDrive's successful demonstration.
Four minutes of flight over Toyota's test field
As part of the demo, SkyDrive's SD-03 vehicle flew over a 2.5-acre Toyota Test Field, the largest in Japan, for about four minutes. A pilot operated the vehicle as it circled over the test field, but a computer-assisted control system was also kept in the loop to ensure flight's stability and safety. Simultaneously, ground staff monitored flight conditions and the performance of the aircraft.
World's smallest electric VTOL vehicle
The SD-03 takes the space of two parked cars, making it the world's smallest electric vehicle with vertical take-off and landing capabilities. To lift off and fly in the required direction, the vehicle uses four pairs of rotors that work in opposite directions. Each rotor is powered by its own motor to allow safe flight and landing even in the case of a failure.
Distinct light placement to indicate flight direction
The aircraft also carries two white lights in front and a red light running around the bottom of the body, which will make it easy for observers to tell which way the vehicle is headed when it is floating in the sky.
However, commercial public flights are still nowhere close
While the demo of SD-03 shows SkyDrive's potential to make functional air mobility solutions, it must be noted that this test was just for four minutes and the field was also closed. To transform it into a vehicle that is safe for public use, the company will have to conduct more manned test flights in an open area and for longer durations.
Open flight approvals likely by year-end
SkyDrive hopes to obtain the necessary permissions to conduct open tests and is planning to have a commercial two-seater flying car ready by 2023 - with necessary technology improvements and government approvals. Once ready, the vehicle could be used to enable a flying taxi service which would help people beat the city traffic or safely export goods to customers from warehouses.
Here's what CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa said after the flight test
"We are extremely excited to have achieved Japan's first-ever manned flight of a flying car. We want to realize a society where flying cars are an accessible and convenient means of transportation...and people are able to experience a safe, secure, comfortable new way of life."
Other companies are also racing to make flying taxis
Along with SkyDrive, several other companies are also developing and testing flying taxis. This includes Larry Page's Kitty Hawk Flyer, Airbus Vahana, Uber Elevate, Boeing, Germany's Volocopter 2X, and China's Ehang 216 which carried passengers during a demonstration in August 2019. None of these vehicles are ready for public flight yet but they are inching closer to make that happen.