A company out of Japan has completed the first tests of its ‘flying car’ with a person onboard.
The vehicle, which could be more accurately described as an eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) vehicle rather than a flying car, has been built by SkyDrive. During a recent test, it hovered several feet off the ground for a few minutes before softly and safely returning to the ground.
SkyDrive’s vehicle is dubbed the ‘Manned Machine SD-03’ and uses eight propellers and eight electric motors to provide it with lift.
“Of the world’s more than 100 flying car projects, only a handful has succeeded with a person on board,” SkyDrive’s Tomohiro Fukuzawa told The Detroit News. “I hope many people will want to ride it and feel safe.”
Fukuzawa says SkyDrive’s prototype can only fly for five to 10 minutes but says if this can be extended up to 30 minutes, it will have potential and could be exported to markets including China.
Of course, there are many challenges in commercializing eVTOL vehicles like the Manned Machine SD-03, including air traffic control, battery sizes, and other infrastructure uses.
“Many things have to happen,” co-founder of Near Earth Autonomy (another eVTOL company) Sanjiv Singh said. “If they cost $10 million, no one is going to buy them. If they fly for 5 minutes, no one is going to buy them. If they fall out of the sky every so often, no one is going to buy them.”
SkyDrive began its project back in 2012 and has received funding from the likes of Toyota, Panasonic, and video game developed Bandai Namco. It also recently received 3.7 billion yen ($37 million) in its latest round of funding that included the Development Bank of Japan.