It may look like a slick motorcycle with propellors, but it’s actually a flying car made by Japan’s SkyDrive Inc. — and yes, it can fly.
In a test flight video shown to reporters on Friday, the contraption, with one person aboard, lifted 1-2 meters off the ground and hovered in a netted area at Toyota Test Field for four minutes, CGTN.com reported.
Local media outlets said it was the first public demonstration for a flying car in Japanese history.
Tomohiro Fukuzawa, who heads the SkyDrive effort, said he hopes “the flying car” can be made into a real-life product by 2023, but he acknowledged that making it safe was critical.
“Of the world’s more than 100 flying car projects, only a handful have succeeded with a person on board,” he told The Associated Press. “I hope many people will want to ride it and feel safe.”
The machine so far can fly for just five to 10 minutes but if that can become 30 minutes, it will have more potential, including exports to places like China, Fukuzawa said.
Unlike airplanes and helicopters, eVTOL, or “electric vertical takeoff and landing,” vehicles offer quick point-to-point personal travel, at least in principle.
They could also do away with the hassle of airports and traffic jams and the cost of hiring pilots, as they could fly automatically, CGTN reported.
But battery sizes, air traffic control and other infrastructure issues are among the many potential challenges to commercializing them.
“Many things have to happen,” said Sanjiv Singh, professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, who co-founded Near Earth Autonomy, near Pittsburgh, which is also working on an eVTOL aircraft, CGTN reported.
“If they cost US$10 million, no one is going to buy them. If they fly for five 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,” Singh said.
The SkyDrive project began humbly as a volunteer project called Cartivator in 2012, with funding by top Japanese companies including automaker Toyota Motor Corp., electronics company Panasonic Corp. and video-game developer Bandai Namco.
“In designing an unexplored, new genre of transportation known as the flying car, we chose the keyword “progressive” for inspiration,” Design Director Takumi Yamamoto said.
“We wanted this vehicle to be futuristic, charismatic and desirable for all future customers, while fully incorporating the high technology of SkyDrive.”
The success of this flight means that it is likely the car will be tested outside of the Toyota Test field by the end of the year, CNN reported.
The company will continue to develop technologies to safely and securely launch the flying car in 2023, the news release said. No price has been announced.