The Government of Japan and several technological and automobile companies have agreed on a roadmap that puts 2023 as the starting point for the commercialization of flying vehicles and its widespread use in the urban environment.
After half a year of meetings, a public-private committee formed by some twenty companies and the ministries of Economy, Trade and Industry and Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism finished defining a business plan that contemplates normalizing the circulation by air in a term of five years.
"The idea behind the Flying car is that we can get a more reasonable price than that of a helicopter or an airplane. In addition, it is easier to pilot ", explained Tomohiro Fukuzawa, CEO of Skydrive, a company member of this committee that for four years has been working on the development of a flying vehicle.
The project to develop the tourism of this company already has a financing of more than 5 million dollars (4.4 million euros) by companies in the automotive sector and the governments of Tokyo and Japan.
About 400 people work for the manufacture of the Skydrive flying car, which was born from the minds of a dozen young engineers who invested their free time in the creation of a new system of air mobility.
"The idea behind the flying car is that we can get a more reasonable price than a helicopter or a plane, and it's easier to fly.
"We started working on this project as a kind of voluntary work or hobby," recalled Fukuzawa, who in 2014 was engaged in the production of auto parts for Toyota Motors. Now, Toyota is one of the main investors of this emerging company, whose closest objective is to participate in the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, something that they are already negotiating with the organization of the event.
After the games, they want the exit of Skydrive's market in 2023, to strengthen it as a means of urban transport in the following years, something that the Japanese Government is willing to accommodate by creating new infrastructures and developing laws that regulate the circulation of these vehicles.
However, the mass production and sale of the car, which its engineers have planned for 2026, is a challenge due to the high cost of the product, which now stands at 50 million yen (397,000 euros).
For this reason, the CEO of Skydrive explained that the Government of Japan is studying, at first, make this type of vehicle a public service: "Today we do not have to own the vehicle, but we can share it or use it as a service. If we use it as a taxi, the price is much more reasonable. "
This car is unique in terms of size – less than other projects of this type – and its vertical takeoff. It also has a source of electric power and more stability in the flight than vehicles designed by other companies.
3.6 meters long, 3.1 meters wide and 1.1 meters high, the small size of the Skydrive allows it to take off from a small space, so its creator commented that "you could park even in a konbini", name that Japanese convenience stores receive.
Although the car "can fly at any altitude," according to the engineer, the team that develops it estimates that its ascent is at a minimum of 150 meters, height that would allow a parachute to open in the event of an accident. This December, the company successfully flew a full-scale prototype of the car, which is designed to hold two people, weighs about 400 kilograms and is expected to reach a speed of 100 kilometers per hour in the air.
The first test with a human pilot will take place in the summer of 2019, after receiving the approval of the Japanese Government, which since this year allows this type of test to take place abroad. In addition, Japan will organize flight tests for all flying car projects nationwide next year. "In Japan, many people consume science fiction, where many flying cars appear, and we are already very familiar," concluded Fukuzawa.