World’s First (and Smallest) Manned Flying Car Is Safe, Says Regulator

Japanese flying car startup SkyDrive has won a key safety certificate for its single-seat eVTOL SD-03 from a Japanese regulator.

SkyDrive’s SD-03 single-seat electric vertical take-off-and-landing vehicle. SkyDrive

In August 2020, Tokyo-based flying car startup SkyDrive successfully flew a prototype eVTOL vehicle called SD-03 with a pilot on board at a test site in the Japanese city of Toyota, marking the world’s first manned flight in a flying car designed for urban use. The one-seater electric aircraft, powered by a battery and four pairs of propellers, flew to six feet above the ground and hovered in a netted test area for about five minutes.

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SkyDrive reached another milestone this week. Its application for a type certificate for SD-3 has been accepted by Japan’s MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism). Similar to the definition under the Federal Aviation Administration, a type certificate in Japan is the approval of the design, structure and performance of a newly developed aircraft. It signifies the aircraft is in compliance with applicable safety and environmental standards.

“Certification is only granted after the aircraft had gone through a battery of studies and tests, including strength tests and flight tests,” SkyDrive said in a press release on Monday, noting that this is the first time the MLIT has accepted a certificate application for a flying car.

SkyDrive says it is “very pleased” to have been awarded the certification, and added that it will “continue to work in close partnership with the government and MLIT to complete [its] development of a wholly safe and reliable flying car.”

SkyDrive currently runs a cargo drone service in Japan. The company aims to launch a flying taxi service with SD-03 in Japan’s Osaka Bay area as early as 2025. The current version of SD-03 can fly up to 10 minutes at a top speed of 30 mph (48 km/h). The company’s near-term goal is to raise the vehicle’s speed to 40 mph and extend flight duration to 30 minutes. It also plans to roll out a two-seater commercial model sometime in 2023, the year which the Japanese government expects to introduce flying taxi services in dense cities like Tokyo and Osaka.

SD-3 is a lot smaller than eVTOL prototypes developed by U.S. companies aiming the urban air taxi market, such as Archer’s four-seat vehicle and Joby’s five-seat model. SkyDrive takes pride in SD-3’s compact size. “It will spread as a new means of daily transportation, and it is designed to fit in two general parking lots,” the company said in a press release last September. “Our goal is to develop the world’s smallest flying car model, approximately 2-meter high, 4-meter wide, and 4-meter long.”

World’s First (and Smallest) Manned Flying Car Is Safe, Says Regulator