flying car
Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
September 1, 2020 ·  3 min read

‘Flying car’ gets off ground, with a person aboard

Do you remember the 1960s cartoon series the Jetsons? The show followed George Jetson, his wife Jane, and their two kids Judy and Elroy through their futuristic lives where everyone had robot housemaids and drove around in flying cars. While this fictional depiction of a futuristic world still hasn’t quite come to fruition, one aspect of the show might be happening sooner than we think: flying cars.

For the first time, a Japanese company has successfully tested a manned flying car, and this is only the beginning.

A Flying Car

On August 25, Japanese company Sky Drive Inc. conducted their first public demonstration of their flying car, the SD-03. It was done at the Toyota Test Field, which is one of the largest in the country and where the company has its development base [1].

The car took flight in the early evening with a pilot at the helm, and circled the test field for about four minutes. A computer-assisted control system helped ensure flight stability and safety while staff at the field monitored flight conditions and aircraft performance at all times.

According to a press release from the company, the SD-03 was designed to be the world’s smallest electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) model, and measures two meters high by four meters wide by four meters long- about the size of two parked cars.

The car has eight motors in four locations as a means of ensuring safety in emergency situations, addressing compliance standards, and alleviating potential regulatory concerns [2].

Design Director Takumi Yamamot explained that the inspiration in designing a new, unexplored genre of transportation was the keyword “progressive”.

“We wanted this vehicle to be futuristic, charismatic and desirable for all future customers, while fully incorporating the high technology of SkyDrive,” he said [1].

The exterior of the car was painted white, to represent white birds and floating clouds in the sky.

“SkyDrive’s flying car has been designed to be a coupe embodying dreams and exuding charisma, such that it will be welcomed into people’s lives and used naturally,” read the company’s statement. “The company hopes that its aircraft will become people’s partner in the sky rather than merely a commodity and it will continue working to design a safe sky for the future as a partner in the sky.” [2]

The Future of Flying Car Travel

Company CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa expressed in his own statement the company’s desire to make flying car travel and accessible and convenient means of transportation.

“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 in 2018 with the goal of commercializing such aircraft,” he said. “We aim to take our social experiment to the next level in 2023 and to that end we will be accelerating our technological development and our business development.” [2]

Nobuo Kishi, CTO, explained that the SD-03 is the culmination of Sky Drive’s achievements in technical verification, and that they will continue to develop these technologies for the future.

“We have been working on the design of electric propulsion systems, flight control systems, aircraft structures, testing, manufacturing, and introducing monitoring equipment for aircraft conditions during flight testing step by step, and with a considerable sense of speed,” he said [2].

Because of the success of this first flight, the car will likely be tested outside of the Toyota Test Field by the end of this year. The company’s goal is to launch the flying car in 2023, however a price for the vehicle has yet to be announced.

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