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▶'Flying Car' Test Successful for Japanese Company (2020-10-23)
People have long dreamt of a car that flies through the sky.
Japan’s SkyDrive has carried out a successful, but modest test flight of such a vehicle carrying a person. It is just one of the many “flying car” projects around the world.
In a video shown to reporters last week, a vehicle that looked like a motorcycle with propellers lifted up to two meters off the ground. It flew in circles in a protected area for four minutes.
Tomohiro Fukuzawa heads the SkyDrive effort. He said he hopes the flying car can be made into a real-life product by 2023. However, he noted the importance of safety.
“Of the world’s more than 100 flying car projects, only a handful has succeeded with a person on board,” he told The Associated Press.
“I hope many people want to ride it and feel safe.”
The machine so far can fly for just five to 10 minutes, but if the flight time can be extended to 30 minutes, the car will have more possibilities. For example, it could be exported to places like China, Fukuzawa said.
Unlike airplanes and helicopters, “electric vertical takeoff and landing” vehicles, or eVTOL, generally offer quick point-to-point personal travel. They could do away with having to deal with airports, traffic jams and the cost of paying for pilots. Such vehicles could even fly without a pilot.
Battery sizes, air traffic control and other issues are among the main problems to overcome before selling them to the public.
“Many things have to happen,” said Sanjiv Singh, professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. He helped start Near Earth Autonomy, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The company also develops eVTOL systems.
“If they cost $10 million, no one is going to buy them. If they fly for 5 minutes, no one is going to buy them. If they fall out of the sky…no one is going to buy them,” Singh said.
SkyDrive’s flying car began as a volunteer project in 2012. The project received financial support from top Japanese companies including carmaker Toyota, electronics company Panasonic and video-game developer Bandai Namco.
A demonstration flight three years ago did not go well. But the flying car has improved, and the project recently received additional support of $37 million, including money from the Development Bank of Japan.
The Japanese government has expressed support for the futuristic project, with a “road map” for business services by 2023. The goal is to expand the flying car’s commercial use by the 2030s. It also has noted possible uses for connecting faraway areas and providing transportation in disasters.
[September 03, 2020]
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