The Jetsons may have been right about the future. Japanese tech startup SkyDrive Inc. successfully completed the first public demonstration of a flying car in Japan on Aug. 25 — putting humans one step closer to personal flight vehicles.
In a video released Friday, the single-seat manned SD-03 circled around the 2.5-acre Toyota Test Field for about four minutes. The helmeted pilot was in control, but also assisted by a computer system to help with stability and safety.
Touted as the world’s smallest electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL), the aircraft is about 6.5 feet high and 13 feet in both width and length — approximately occupying the space of two cars. The sleek design of the vehicle is operated by eight motors and two propellers on each corner, along with two white lights in the front and a red light around the bottom for those on the ground to clearly see which way the car is going.
While the SD-03 can currently only lift up about 10 feet and hover for five to 10 minutes, the hope is to increase that to 30 minutes by the time it’s released in 2023. The company plans to obtain permits to fly outside of the Toyota Test Field by the end of the year.
SkyDrive started in 2018 as an offshoot of the volunteer group Cartivator that was established in 2012 and began developing its first flying car in 2014. Among its 100 corporate sponsors are Panasonic and Sony.
Flying cars have long been a goal with many companies, including Uber working with NASA to develop a model. Morgan Stanley estimates they could become a $1.5 trillion market by 2040.
“We want to realize a society where flying cars are an accessible and convenient means of transportation in the skies and people are able to experience a safe, secure, and comfortable new way of life,” SkyDrive CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa said in statement.
And every aspect, even the car’s color, is a nod to the future: “The main exterior color of the SD-03 is pearl white, which was chosen to represent white birds and the floating clouds in the sky of users’ future,” the company said in a release.
One state is already preparing for that future. On July 24 New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill into law to allow pilots to drive flying cars on public highways.
Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in south Florida who is always on the lookout for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach (no cheesiness intended). Find her on Instagram at @shedreamsoftravel.
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