Japan’s SkyDrive Plans Public eVTOL Demo This Summer

SkyDrive has completed flight testing on a single-seat manned eVTOL demonstrator.
Credit: SkyDrive

Startup SkyDrive has confirmed plans for a public flight demonstration this summer of Japan’s first manned electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) vehicle.

The flight was originally planned as part of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, which have been postponed to mid-2021 because of COVID-19.

SkyDrive completed the technical verification phase in March, when its single-seat multirotor SD-02 demonstrator finished a series of manned outdoor flights that began in December. These tests followed earlier unmanned indoor and outdoor flights with subscale models.

The startup aims to have an eVTOL air taxi on the market by 2023 and an automated fly/drive “flying car” by 2030.

“We are at the stage of developing a market for prototypes for 2023 and working to confirm that we meet the safety and security standards needed to obtain aircraft airworthiness certification from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism,” SkyDrive said in a statement.

SkyDrive was established by Cartivator, a Japanese nonprofit volunteer group set up to develop an eVTOL vehicle able to both fly and drive. Together they have announced their 100th corporate sponsorship agreement. 

Sponsors include Japanese electronics giant NEC, which has provided assistance with verifying and validating the flight control system. NEC also is working with SkyDrive to improve social acceptance of urban air mobility (UAM) through meetings between the public and private sectors.

An automotive parts supplier has seconded engineers to SkyDrive and is developing and producing prototype wiring harness components. Automotive supplier Joyson Safety Systems Japan has developed a lightweight seat with a built-in impact absorption device from sporting goods manufacturer Mizuno.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.