Drone-like ‘Flying Car’ Takes Step Toward Commercialization

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An electric drone-like aircraft developed by a startup in Japan has taken an important step towards commercialization after obtaining safety certification from the government.

Tokyo-based SkyDrive unveiled an early version of its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle in 2018, before achieving its first test flight last year.

The current design of the SD-03 Flying Car from SkyDrive has a single seat with a body roughly the size of a small car. Similar to a large drone, it flies using eight propellers (two groups at the end of four arms) and can reach speeds of up to 30 mph (about 50 km/h) during flights of up to 10 minutes.

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The video below, shared by the company earlier this year, shows the flying machine in action.

In the past few days, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has issued a certification confirming that the design, structure, strength and performance of the SD-03 meet the safety and environmental requirements needed for such aircraft. SkyDrive says it is the first time that MLIT has accepted an application for a flying car.

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The certification puts SkyDrive on the path to commercializing the aircraft in 2025. If it can get past the remaining regulatory hurdles, it wants to use SD-03 for its air taxi service during the Osaka Kansai Expo event that same year.

That suggests SkyDrive will have to build the SD-03 completely autonomous, or if a pilot is required, build a larger version of the plane with extra passenger seats.

The Tokyo-based company said it was “extremely pleased” to receive the certification, adding that it “will continue to work in close partnership with the government and MLIT to complete our development of a completely safe and reliable flying vehicle.”

SkyDrive is one of a growing number of companies around the world hoping to find success in the flying taxi market.

Just a few days ago, another Japanese company showed off a great bike that had a successful test ride. Its manufacturer hopes to start selling the device next year for around $680,000, although like SkyDrive planes, regulators will have the final say on whether it can fly in the sky and what kind of flights it can take.

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