This drone-like ‘flying car’ has just taken a step toward commercialization

A drone-like electric aircraft developed by a startup in Japan has taken an important step toward commercialization after receiving a safety certificate from the government.

Tokyo-based SkyDrive unveiled an early version of its electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) vehicle in 2018, before achieving its first piloted test flight last year.

The current design of SkyDrive’s SD-03 “flying car” has a single seat with a body about the size of a small car. Resembling a large drone, it flies using eight propellers (two sets at the end of four arms) and can reach speeds of 30 mph (around 50 kph) during trips lasting up to 10 minutes.

The video below, shared by the company earlier this year, shows the flying machine in action.

In the last few days, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) issued a certificate confirming that the design, structure, strength, and performance of the SD-03 meets the necessary safety and environmental requirements for such an aircraft. SkyDrive says it’s the first time that MLIT has accepted an application for a flying car.

The certification puts SkyDrive on a path to commercialize the aircraft in 2025. If it can pass the remaining regulatory hurdles, it wants to use the SD-03 for an air-taxi service during the Osaka Kansai Expo event in the same year.

That suggests SkyDrive will have to create a fully autonomous SD-03, or if a pilot is required, build a larger version of the aircraft with additional seats for passengers.

The Tokyo-based company said it was “very pleased” to receive the certification, adding that it will “continue to work in close partnership with the government and MLIT to complete our development of a wholly safe and reliable flying car.”

SkyDrive is one of a growing number of companies around the world hoping to score success in the flying-taxi market.

Another Japanese company just a few days ago showed off a remarkable hoverbike taking a successful test flight. Its maker is hoping to start selling the machine next year for around $680,000, though like SkyDrive’s aircraft, regulators will have the final say over whether it can take to the skies and what kind of flights it can make.

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