NEC Corporation, one of Japan’s leading electronics firms recently conducted a test of its “flying car.” The large drone like machine has four propellers and in the test the car hovered steadily for about one minute.
The test flight was held at a NEC facility near Tokyo and the car reached a top altitude in the first test of 3 meters (10 feet). The test was held in a large cage for a safety precaution and one person attending said that the set-up time, and time spent discussing safety regulations took more time than the test flight.
The Japanese government is supporting the development of flying cars and this “new industry” by providing funding for research and development, establishing a test course for the flying cars in an area of northern Japan that was devastated by the Fukushima Nuclear disaster in 2011 and through the preparation laws that would govern how these “new vehicles” are governed and regulated.
Automotive executives and government officials have said that there should be a 10-year goal that culminates in people flying in personal “cars” by the 2030’s. One business executive said that if Japan can take a lead in this new industry that it could be worth more than $1 trillion dollars.
A “Cartivator” concept drawing
In Japan, Cartivator, a flying car start-up that has more than 80 corporate sponsors, including NEC, Toyota and Bandai Namco developed a first prototype, which crashed in 2017.
Tomohiro Fukuzawa, the CEO of Cartivator was at the NEC demonstration and said that he was impressed by the progress that NEC has made. He added that his own company was continuing with its research and development that their machines were flying longer than in previous tests.
The goal for Cartivator, NEC and other companies is to create a air and land vehicle that provides a seamless transition from driving to flight. Before any commercial operations begin, there are a large number of technical issues that remain including battery life, emergency and safety operations and the need for defined government regulations.
Often called EVtol, for “electric vertical takeoff and landing” aircraft, a flying car is defined as an aircraft that’s electric, or hybrid electric, with driverless capabilities, that can land and takeoff vertically. NEC officials say that their flying cars are being designed for unmanned commercials flights and that the main purpose would be for the delivery of goods.
All of the flying car concepts are being designed like drones, since they promise to be better than helicopters. Helicopters are expensive to maintain, noisy to fly and require trained pilots. It is envisioned that there will be a variety of flying cars in the future including those that are automated and self-driving which will be used for commercial applications and flying cars that are designed for people.
A concept model for the Uber Air “flying taxi”
U.S. ride-sharing and transportation network Uber is planning demonstrator flights in 2020 and commercial operations in 2023, and has chosen Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne as the first cities to offer what it calls Uber Air flights.
Proponents of flying cars note that in order to be viable they will have to have the ability to carry 500 ~ 600 kilograms of weight in order to carry 4 ~ 6 people and their packages comfortably. This will make flying cars ideal for both consumer and commercial use and will decrease logistics costs for goods and products.
The future is not yet here, but the more we look to the sky, the sooner it will arrive.