SkyDrive is a Japanese aero/auto startup helmed by former Toyota engineer Tomohiro Fukuzawa (foo-ku-zow-ah). The company not only has ambitious plans to design and develop the world's smallest flying car in Tokyo, but it plans to launch a flying taxi service by 2023. By 2050, the CEO believes that passengers will be able to travel anywhere in Japan's sprawling 240 square mile capital in just 10 minutes. For perspective, Atlanta is less than 140 square miles, but New York City is a little more than 300 square miles.
More than 100 flying car projects are currently in development, including efforts from industry giants Boeing and Airbus. According to a recent interview with the Japan Times, SkyDrive is unique because it’s two-seater would be the world’s smallest flying car, about the size of two parking spaces.
So far, the company has created the SD-XX concept car, a small eVTOL, or electric-vertical takeoff and liftoff aircraft. Essentially, it’s a drone the size of a car.
The company recently developed a battery-powered prototype with a pair of propellers at each of its four corners. In December, the demonstration vehicle achieved the first manned outdoor flight in Japan.
By 2023, the company hopes to debut its first full size model -- a craft measuring 1.5 meters tall, 4 meters by 3.5 meters across. It will have a limited range at first and fly approximately 62 mph. According to the company CEO, the car won't be capable of normal road speeds until the late 2020s.
While the flying taxi service, which will be piloted and hold one passenger, is set for 2023, the company doesn't plan to sell a fully autonomous flying car for the general public in 2028.
The Japanese government is pushing for 2023 as well, but many hurdles remain, including certification for commercial flights.
SkyDrive was born out of Cartivator, a organization of professional volunteers dedicated to developing flying car technology. In mid-2017, Toyota invested nearly $400,000 in Cartivator to work on SkyDrive. Back then the hope was to have a prototype ready in time to light the torch at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Given the pandemic has pushed the 2020 games into 2021, they have a bit more time. SkyDrive was spun out of Cartivator in July 2018 to accelerate that initiative, its staff mainly members of Cartivator.
The company expects to sell at least 100 vehicles by 2028 and while no price was given, the CEO said it would be on par with an expensive car.