While there have been working prototypes of flying cars before, most have been remote-controlled examples, meaning no one was sitting at the driver's seat (or cockpit?) to maneuver the flying vehicle. Just last year, Japanese tech company NEC was able to successfully test a flying vehicle, albeit remote controlled.
One company, however, has been able to get their own flying vehicle off the ground, complete with a pilot on board manning the controls.
That company is SkyDrive, Inc., a Japanese developer of urban air mobility solutions. Last August 25, SkyDrive held the first public demonstration of their SD-03 single-seat flying car in Japan. The maiden flight took place at the 10,000 square meter Toyota Test Field where the company is based.
The SD-30 flew for a good 4 minutes on its first-ever flight. While there was a pilot behind the controls, the company did make sure that a computer-assisted control system helped ensure the flying car remained stable mid-flight. Also, the technical staff was present as well in order to monitor flight conditions at all times.
“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. 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,” said Tomohiro Fukuzawa, CEO of SkyDrive Inc.
The SD-03 was designed to be the smallest electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) model as a new means of transportation for the near future. It measures four meters long, four meters wide, and two meters tall. By its size alone, SkyDrive claims it will take up parking space as two cars. This will allow the SD-03 to park almost anywhere much like a typical road-going vehicle. The eVTOL also has white lights at the front, and red-light running around the bottom of the body – much like a car's headlight and taillight design.
As to what powers this flying vehicle, the SD-03 comes with four electric motors that drive a set of rotors. Each one houses counter-rotating propellers, each driven by its own motor. In total, the flying vehicle has eight rotors which SkyDrive says means that it will ensure vehicle safety in emergency situations during flight, and address compliance standards for future regulatory concerns.
“We want to realize 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,” added Fukuzawa.
With SkyDrive successfully demonstrating the flying cars are a possible means of future transportation, could this mean we'll be seeing more cars take to the skies? Well, other companies are also busy developing (or delving) into the flying car market.
Aside from NEC and SkyDrive Inc., Hyundai and Porsche are already busy trying to get their own flying car projects off the ground soon. Just last year, Hyundai hired a former Bell helicopter executive to help them with their project while Porsche partnered with Boeing. Clearly, it looks like the urban air mobility market will become a big thing in the not so distant future.
The only question now is, would you also need a pilot's license to drive (or fly) one of these things soon, especially with SkyDrive looking to have their flying vehicles ready for customers by 2023.
Doc Brown, eat your heart out.