A Japanese electronics manufacturer has reached a major milestone in flying vehicle technology, by successfully demonstrating a ‘flying car’ prototype which was able to hover and land safely.
The vehicle - which is approximately four metres long, weighs 150kg and is powered by a battery - was able to hover three metres from the ground for around a minute before landing.
The car was demonstrated in a suburb of Tokyo earlier this week by electronics company NEC Corp, within the confines of a cage as a safety precaution.
Kouji Okada, a leader of the project at NEC, told Bloomberg: “Japan is a densely populated country and that means flying cars could greatly alleviate the burden on road traffic.”
He added: “We are positioning ourselves as an enabler for air mobility, providing location data and building communications infrastructure for flying cars.”
The firm has partnered with Japanese start-up Cartivator who will start mass producing the futuristic vehicle in 2026, according to Tomohiro Fukuzawa, the start-up’s co-founder.
Japan is vying to be a world leader in flying cars and air mobility. Last year, the government established the ‘Public-Private Conference for Future Air Mobility’ - a group of government agencies, universities, and private sector companies including NEC Corp, Japan Airlines, Subaru, Uber Japan, and Boeing Japan.
The group has been exploring potential uses for flying cars, such as relieving traffic congestion, carrying patients for emergency first aid and quickly transporting goods in case of disasters.
In December 2018, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) unveiled its ‘Roadmap toward Air Mobility Revolution’. The roadmap detailed the country’s plans to use flying cars to ship goods by 2023, before being used for passengers by 2030.
To achieve these goals, the report outlined the need for development of regulations and standards for safety of vehicles, and development of technologies to ensure the safety and reliability of vehicles.
There must also be development of technologies for autonomous flight, flight operation control and electric propulsion, METI said.
The Japanese government’s future plans include the “establishment of Fukushima Robot Test Field as a Test Flight base” in north-eastern Japan.
The country's attempts to lead the way in this technology are part of a global race to develop flying cars.
In 2017, the European aerospace giant Airbus unveiled plans to develop a “flying car” to function as an aerial taxi and carry cargo. The “Vahana” project is run by Airbus subsidiary A^3, which was set up in Silicon Valley in 2016.