Toyota-backed Japanese startup SkyDrive revealed a video from the latest test of its SD-03 flying car recently, showing off the aircraft’s first takeoff in a controlled environment at a Toyota testing facility where the battery-powered flier successfully and safely bore its human pilot six feet above the ground for approximately four minutes. While that may not seem like much, the private company’s vehicle — intended for deployment as an urban taxi by 2023 — joins a growing number of projects making their first forays into human testing, which has long been a distant dream for flying car makers.
Looking much like a quad-copter drone with just enough cockpit fairing to ensconce its human occupant, the SD-03 actually flies by way of four pairs of overhead propellers. Future versions bound for taxi duty would no doubt need to be designed to accommodate more than one person, but crossing that bridge seems much more doable now that the solo test has demonstrated that the concept actually works.
The SD-03 — “designed to be the world’s smallest electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing model,” according to SkyDrive — is aimed at civilian use. The single-seat SD-03 electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle measures two meters high, four meters in length and four meters wide (6.56 x 13.1 x 13.1 ft), or about the footprint of two parked cars. It features a sporty exterior in pearl white, with funky H-shaped white lights to the front and a red T-shaped light to the rear.
There are two sets of counter-rotating rotors to the front and two more sets at the rear, which can be shielded behind curved protectors for safety. Each rotor is driven by its own electric motor as a failsafe against unit failure.
In its goal to meet the Japanese government’s target of licensing airborne taxi service within the next three years, SkyDrive plans to evolve the car’s design so that it can accommodate two occupants. If development stays on track, the skies above Tokyo (and perhaps in cities everywhere) could one day look a little busier — all in the name of decongesting the streets below.
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