There are many flying car projects going on around the world, but it still seems like a distant dream for human civilization. However, we could be one step closer to actually making the dream come true. A Japanese company eventually built a car that not only managed to take off, but did so with a human sitting inside.
Japanese company SkyDrive Inc. performed a successful but modest test flight with one person sitting in the cabin of the car.
In one video, a craft that looked like a smooth motorcycle with propellers rose several feet (1-2 meters) from the ground and hovered in a netting area for four minutes.
Tomohiro Fukuzawa, who is leading the SkyDrive effort, said he hoped the “flying car” could become a real product by 2023, but recognized that it was essential to make it safe.
“Of more than 100 flying car projects around the world, only a handful have been successful with one person on board,” he told A.
“I hope a lot of people will want to drive it and feel safe.” So far, the machine can only fly five to 10 minutes, but if it can grow to 30 minutes, it will have more potential, including exports to countries like China, Fukuzawa said. .
The advantage of an eVTOL, or “electric vertical take-off and landing”, over airplanes and helicopters, is that they can in principle provide rapid personal point-to-point travel.
Battery size, air traffic control, and other infrastructure issues are among the many potential challenges in bringing them to market.
“A lot of things have to happen,” said Sanjiv Singh, a professor at the Institute of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, who co-founded Near Earth Autonomy near Pittsburgh, who is also working on an eVTOL aircraft.
“If they cost $ 10 million, no one will buy them. If they fly for 5 minutes, no one will buy them. If they fall from the sky every now and then, no one will buy them, ”Singh said in a telephone interview.
The SkyDrive project started as a volunteer project called Cartivator in 2012, with funding from large Japanese companies including automaker Toyota Motor Corp., electronics company Panasonic Corp. and video game developer Bandai Namco.
A demonstration flight three years ago went wrong. But it has improved, and the project recently received another round of funding, for 3.9 billion yen ($ 37 million), including from the Development Bank of Japan.
The Japanese government is optimistic about the ‘Jetsons’ vision, with a ‘roadmap’ for business services by 2023 and expanded commercial use by the 2030s, highlighting its potential to connect remote areas and provide lifesavers in the event of a disaster.
Experts compare the buzz around flying cars to the days when the aviation industry started with the Wright brothers and the auto industry with the Ford Model T.
Lilium from Germany, Joby Aviation in California and Wisk, a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Kitty Hawk Corp., are also working on eVTOL projects.
Sebastian Thrun, managing director of Kitty Hawk, said it took a while for planes, cellphones and self-driving cars to be accepted.
“But the time between technology and social adoption could be shorter for eVTOL vehicles,” he said.
With contributions from the Agencies
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