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In 2023, flying cars will take off in Japan! What is the specific plan


In 2023, flying cars will take off in Japan! What is the specific plan

In 2023, flying cars will take off in Japan! What is the specific plan

The race to develop flying cars has reached a climax, and demonstration experiments are underway around the world. Meanwhile, in August 2020, SkyDrive succeeded in the public test of manned flight by cutting the top of the Japanese group. Now that practical application has entered the countdown stage, what phase is the development and commercialization process of flying cars in Japan? We spoke with CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa about the latest global trends, actual use cases, and future prospects.

Practical application of flying cars is planned for FY2023

“The commercialization of flying cars is just around the corner. We are also proceeding with development toward commercialization in fiscal 2023,” says Tomohiro Fukuzawa of SkyDrive.
Flying cars have three features: (1) Low cost and low noise because they are electric, (2) Easy to drive and capable of self-driving, and (3) Vertical take-off and landing, enabling point-to-point movement and compact infrastructure. Aggregated. By taking advantage of these features, Mr. Fukuzawa says, "I want to aim for a world where people can travel in less time, safely, and as they wish, even in areas where infrastructure has not yet been developed."

In 2016, Uber released a 99-page white paper that spurred the development of flying cars, presenting a concrete business model. With this as an opportunity, in Europe and the United States, product announcements and flight tests were conducted one after another, and efforts toward practical use accelerated at a stretch.

Of course, Japan is no exception. In August 2020, SkyDrive succeeded in a public test of manned flight for the first time in Japan, demonstrating its presence as a top runner in this area.
“Flying cars will probably start selling from 2022 to 2024. It is said that the market size will eventually expand to about one-third of the automobile market. If battery technology evolves to extend cruising range, and if regulations and social acceptance issues are cleared, I think the use of flying cars will continue to spread,” says Mr. Fukuzawa.

The flying cars currently under development are broadly divided into two types: large aircraft and small aircraft. The former is an airframe measuring 10m square and weighing more than 3 tons. The latter, on the other hand, is compact with a size of 3m square and a weight of 0.6 tons.

Large aircraft have a cruising range of 100 to 300 km, while small aircraft have a short range of 20 to 30 km.In Japan and Asia, compact aircraft that can be used on a daily basis and can take off and land on the roofs of buildings will become popular. On the other hand, in Europe and the United States, where land is large and travel distances are long, the development and introduction of large aircraft will progress. Right now, development is proceeding while working hard between these two categories.”

Air taxi service in the bay areas of Osaka and Tokyo

Currently, it is said that there are 200 to 300 flying car project candidates in the world. However, only about 10 cases have reached the manned test, and the reality is that only one Japanese company, SkyDrive.

In 2019, the company built a 10,000 m2 development base in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. In August 2020, it succeeded in the first public test of manned flight in Japan. In the future, if it acquires certification based on the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Aviation Law and is recognized as being as safe as Airbus and Boeing, it will be possible to carry out manned flights with ordinary passengers.

The service is scheduled to start in 2023. Taking advantage of the compact size of the SkyDrive, Mr. Fukuzawa enthusiastically said, "We want to create an aircraft that can take off and land in a space about the size of a convenience store parking lot, and aim for a world where the sky is overwhelmingly accessible."

However, for the time being, in order to operate in a safe and secure manner, we plan to start with a fairly limited air taxi service that makes a round trip to a fixed section. Specifically, it aims to implement it in the "Tokyo metropolitan area" and the "Gulf area of ​​Osaka" where certain transportation needs can be expected on sea routes that are easy to obtain flight permits.

"I'm thinking of starting in the Osaka Bay Area. This area is home to USJ, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, the Osaka Expo, and Yumeshima, the planned site for an integrated resort (IR). It is one of Osaka's leading tourist destinations, with tens of millions of tourists visiting, and inbound tourists make up half of the visitors. So our current plan is to use flying cars to make traveling fun.”

For the time being, start with "entertainment x movement"

In November 2020, the “Sky Mobility Revolution Social Implementation Osaka Roundtable” was launched. SkyDrive will proceed with discussions toward social implementation of flying cars in cooperation with Osaka Prefecture and various stakeholders. “Once the route to the airport is connected, tourists from overseas will be able to easily go to the Osaka bay area. If you take the Yodogawa water bus from the bay area, you will be able to travel to Umeda and Kyoto. In that way, I would like to expand the plan more and more.”

For the time being, we are considering "entertainment", "movement", and "between entertainment and movement" as use cases. “In terms of entertainment, I think it will be used mainly for sightseeing flights, roller coasters, and Ferris wheels. In the middle of transportation, it is used in a way similar to steam locomotives and luxury cruise ships.In that sense, I think that it will start with 'entertainment x transportation' and gradually shift to 'transportation'." Mr. Fukuzawa. In addition to that, it is possible to use it in various fields such as emergency medical care and air taxis.

Legislation is also essential for the commercialization of flying cars. At present, Europe and the United States are taking the lead in developing aviation laws, and the pilot license system is also being discussed globally.

In Japan, in August 2018, the “Public-Private Council for the Air Mobility Revolution” was launched with the aim of developing the flying car industry and strengthening competitiveness. Public and private sector officials have gathered together to discuss technological development and institutional arrangements that should be tackled by all Japan in the future.

“The government’s growth strategy also clearly states that the system will be developed for the start of business from fiscal 2023, and I feel that the government is providing considerable support. If all goes well, I think we will be able to launch in 2023,” says Fukuzawa.

Aiming for know-how accumulation and synergistic effects with both unmanned and manned aircraft

Currently, in parallel with the development of flying cars, the company is also working on the development and commercialization of industrial drones. Since normal drones can only carry about 5 kg, they are equipped with cameras and used for aerial photography, surveying, inspections, etc., but SkyDrive's "Cargo Drone" can carry more than 30 kg. The safety design that utilizes the know-how of manned aircraft makes it possible to move heavy objects stably and safely.
“Actually, this cargo drone is quite useful in solving problems. For example, steel towers rust if not maintained, so we have to paint steel towers at a pace of about 3,000 a year. Painting work requires 30 to 35 cans of paint weighing 20 kg each, and the current reality is that these cans are transported by hand over roads without roads.If cargo drones replace this transport of paint, dangerous work can be reduced. We can reduce it, speed up the work, and deal with labor shortages.”

Of course, this is not the only place where cargo drones can be expected to play an active role. Various use cases can be considered, such as transportation of materials and equipment to mountain facilities, construction sites, ships and offshore facilities, and transportation of goods to mountain huts.

“For example, transportation of materials to mountain huts and transportation of materials and equipment to construction sites in mountainous areas is done manually, which takes a lot of time and money. We can greatly improve performance. I believe that the use of drones for home delivery services will increase in the future,” said Mr. Fukuzawa, looking ahead.

The company will start selling cargo drones in 2020, leveraging the know-how it has cultivated in aircraft development. The idea is to build up a track record of operating unmanned aircraft, the market for which is expanding, and to reflect the knowledge gained there in the development of manned aircraft.

What are the future strategies and key points for commercialization in FY2023?

Looking ahead to commercialization in 2023, what kind of strategy will the company use to open up the flying car market?

“Initially, we would like to develop the market, mainly in emerging countries. In China, in particular, it is easy to obtain flight permits, and the Chinese government is investing huge amounts of resources, so we will develop our business with a sense of urgency. I think we can do it,” says Fukuzawa.

On the other hand, what about the Japanese market? Aside from Osaka, where the World Expo will be held, Mr. Fukuzawa said that there are high hurdles to operating in other areas of Japan, even from the perspective of social acceptance. He talks about his future prospects, saying, "First, we will introduce the system in Asia first, and after accumulating a sufficient track record, we will consider expanding our business in the Japanese market."

“The history of mankind is linked to the evolution of mobility. Flying cars will enrich mobility and life, and at the same time, the success of Japanese hardware startups will lead to the revitalization of Japan’s manufacturing industry. Today's manufacturing in Japan is centered on large companies, but if talented people go to startups, it will be possible to create new products from Japan.I would like to contribute to that point through the development of flying cars.