World's Smallest Flying Car Targets 2023 Launch

 

SkyDrive is a Japanese aero/auto startup helmed by former Toyota engineer Tomohiro Fukuzawa. The Tokyo-based company has ambitious plans to design and develop the world's smallest flying car with aspirations of launching a flying taxi service as soon as 2023. By 2050, the CEO believes that passengers travel anywhere in Japan's sprawling 240-square-mile capital in just 10 minutes.

The company is currently working on the SD-XX concept car, a small eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and liftoff) aircraft. Essentially, it's a drone the size of a car. 

The company recently developed a battery-powered prototype with a pair of propellers at each of its four corners. In December, the demonstration vehicle achieved the first manned outdoor flight in Japan.

By 2023, the company hopes to debut its first full-size model -- a craft 1.5 meters (T) by 4 meters (W). It will have a limited range at first and fly approximately 62 mph. 

According to the company CEO, the car won't be capable of average road speeds until the late 2020s. 

More than 100 flying car projects are currently in development, including efforts from industry giants Boeing and Airbus. According to a recent interview with The Japan Times, SkyDrive is unique because it's two-seater would be the world's smallest flying car, about the same size as a pair of parking spaces. 

While the flying taxi service, which will be piloted and hold one passenger, is set for 2023, the company doesn't plan to sell a fully autonomous flying car for the general public in 2028.

The Japanese government is pushing for a 2023 launch as well, however many hurdles remain, including certification for commercial flights. 

SkyDrive was born out of Cartivator, an organization of professional volunteers dedicated to developing flying car technology. 

In mid-2017, Toyota invested nearly $400,000 in Cartivator to work on SkyDrive. Back then, the hope was to have a prototype ready in time to light the torch at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Since the pandemic has pushed the 2020 games into 2021, it has a bit more time to make it happen. 

In July 2018, SkyDrive was spun out of Cartivator. The staff primarily consists of former Cartivator volunteers.

The company expects to sell at least 100 vehicles by 2028, and while no price is listed, the CEO says it will be equivalent to an expensive car.

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