Japan’s SkyDrive is about to make flying cars the new normal

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Japanese company SkyDrive recently announced that it has reached an agreement with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) to start the type certification process for its two-seater flying car. Using the Bureau’s Airworthiness Inspection Manual (AIM), the SkyDrive SD-05 is almost ready to take flight.

“The Civil Aviation Bureau of Japan accepted our application for type certification in October 2021. Since then, we have had a series of discussions with the authority regarding ways to develop and design safe aircraft and ways to test them. We have now reached agreement with JCAB to adopt AIM Part II as the basis for type certification. We are very happy to have taken a step closer to obtaining a type certificate. From there, we will continue to deepen our partnership with JCAB and discuss plans towards type certification,” says Nobuo Kishi, Chief Technology Officer.

Auto Futures spoke with SkyDrive CEO’s Office Manager Sumie Miyauchi to learn more about the company and some very exciting developments, including a recent collaboration with Suzuki.

Take off from the ground

“SkyDrive was founded in July 2018 with the goal of leading a once-in-a-century mobility revolution,” she says, highlighting what the company is set to achieve. Existing mobility such as automobiles, trains, and planes cannot be used where there are no roads, tracks, or tracks. Time is wasted in daily transportation due to waiting at traffic lights, traffic jams and delays.

“Our founder, Tomohiro Fukuzawa, believed that if there was everyday usable air mobility, people could move around more freely and quickly, with fewer restrictions and less time wasted by existing infrastructure,” says Miyauchi.

In 2020, SkyDrive pulled back the curtains on its prototype, SD-03, for the world to see.

The SkyDrive SD-03 with CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa

The SD-03 was a single-seat, all-electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Developed in Japan, this model was a proof of concept for the company, and the prototype aircraft performed a piloted hover test in 2020 at Toyota City.

The SD-03 used counter-rotating rotors to generate enough lift to carry one person while keeping the vehicle compact. Each rotor operates with an independent motor and electrical system to ensure safe operation in the event of a catastrophic malfunction. In the event that an engine stops working or one of the propellers breaks, the vehicle is still able to fly stably and land in a safe place.

“We’re trying to make our flying vehicle as compact and light as possible so it can take off and land virtually anywhere in the future,” says Miyauchi, explaining how SkyDrive is trying to differentiate itself from other eVTOL players in space. .

“We have completed over 1,000 flight tests to date and conducted a piloted hover test in 2020 at Toyota City. SkyDrive is cooperating closely with the Japanese government and the Japanese national aerospace agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in the research and development process to build a flying car as safe as any existing aircraft.

SkyDrive plans to launch commercially as early as 2025 with the SD-05.

Skydrive Ces 2022
The SD-05 unveiled at CES 2022

Ready for take off

The most significant difference between the SD-03 and the new version is that the SD-05 will have the same safety assurance as existing aircraft and will obtain type certification. Although specifications for this aircraft have yet to be released, the initial plan is to open sales to operators and other businesses rather than individual consumers.

But that’s not all. Not so long ago, SkyDrive introduced its automated cargo drone – the SkyLift.

As Miyauchi explains, potential use cases for the SkyLift include transporting materials for maintenance of pylons, as well as to construction sites for elevated highways.

“We are also considering eVTOL usage scenarios such as transporting a doctor to the scene of an emergency, but we are not currently developing an aircraft specifically for this purpose,” she adds.

Build networks

The regulations might be a pain point for eVTOL companies around the world, but not for SkyDrive, as the Japanese government seems to be very cooperative.

“In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) jointly set up the public-private conference for future air mobility in 2018, bringing together public sector stakeholders. and private sectors to realize flying vehicles,” says Miyauchi.

“A roadmap formulated by METI and MLIT and anticipates a start of activity in the mid-2020s and a large-scale deployment. The project is expected to result in taxi services in urban areas, new means of transport for remote islands and mountainous areas, and emergency transport in the event of disasters.

SkyDrive also recently announced a partnership with Japanese auto giant Suzuki.

Asked what each company brought to the table, Miyauchi explains that this is still under consideration.

“At SkyDrive, we hope to see synergy effects between Suzuki’s expertise in developing and manufacturing compact cars as SkyDrive develops and manufactures compact aircraft.

“In terms of overseas market development, we plan to create a market for flying cars in India, where traffic congestion and transportation infrastructure issues are significant. Suzuki has a large share in India, and we believe that working with Suzuki can accelerate market construction.

For now, SkyDrive’s goal is threefold: to improve the efficiency and performance of its flying vehicle, to obtain the necessary type certification, and to increase the social acceptance of flying vehicles in general. But the last two objectives are only possible if the first is achieved. Speaking of the company’s future plans, Miyauchi says.

“We will continue to steadily develop our flying vehicle and pursue certification activities until we achieve type certification in 2025. After its unveiling at the 2025 World Expo, Osaka, Kansai, we will increase our points of service in Japan and we are also planning to expand overseas.”

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