- a japanese company called skydrive has just tested a single-seat prototype for its electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, a.k.a. a flying car, at toyota test field.
- the sd-03 can land in a spot the size of two parking spaces and in production form will seat two—one of whom will be a pilot.
- that doesn't sound too efficient for taxi purposes, but the project has toyota backing and aims to have flying taxis in the air by 2023.
have you ever seen a drone buzzing overhead and thought, "why couldn't they just scale that up and carry people around in it?" and then, after watching that drone crash spectacularly, have you ever said, "oh, i guess that's why not"? sure you have. nonetheless, electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (evtols, as they call them in the biz) look like the odds-on favorites to deliver on the promise of the flying car. and last week the world inched a bit closer to that fifth element reality when a japanese company called skydrive conducted a manned test flight at toyota test field.
skydrive's sd-03 prototype is a proof of concept for a new type of taxi. it's small, with a footprint that's roughly 12 feet square, which means that it could land in a spot the size of two parking spaces. lift is delivered by four sets of counter-rotating rotors, each powered by its own motor. the company says the eight-rotor, four-motor setup provides redundancy in case of a failure. they're also pretty up-front that the extra safety might help assuage the concerns of legislators who worry about car-sized objects dropping from the heavens upon their constituents' backyard barbecues.
assuming it reaches production, the sd-03 will be a two-seater, with one of those seats belonging to the pilot, so forget about air-carpooling. the prototype is only a single-seater, which navigated toyota's 2.5-acre field (enclosed by netting, lest any flying cars decide to go all christine) for about four minutes at an altitude of six feet. hey, baby steps.
the design incorporates headlights and taillights—not just in the normal locations, but underneath as well, so that observers on the ground can easily decipher the sd-03's direction of travel. the company is planning to escape toyota's gilded cage for more adventurous flights by the end of the year, with the goal of sending air taxis flitting around tokyo by 2023.
if that sounds fantastical, consider that toyota tends not to dabble, and it's pushing hard to send everyday transportation airborne. skydrive is based at toyota's aichi r&d center, and earlier this year toyota invested $394 million in joby aviation, another evtol company. if toyota's correct about the future of transportation, then off-roading is about to gain a whole new meaning. never mind the next land cruiser—when are we getting the sky cruiser?