On August 5th, Japanese electronics firm, NEC Corporations, a global technology company, developed a “flying car” prototype that was able to hover in the air for just one minute during demonstrations in Abiko, Japan, 22 miles away from Tokyo. The new aircraft vehicle will be cheaper, more accessible and quieter than helicopters to fly. Japan will be aiming to have flying cars ready for everyday travel sometime in 2030.
NEC’s prototype flying vehicle will be used as a drone to deliver goods. (Image Credit: sky news)
At 3.9 meters length, 3.7 metres width, and weighing 148 kilograms, the EVtol (electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, which is electric or hybrid electric) acts and looks like a drone, is battery-powered, built with four propellers, three wheels, and enough space inside the vehicle to fit one or two passengers. The vehicle was designed for autonomous delivery flights, which can take off and land vertically. It lifted off without passengers inside to a height of three meters in a netted caged at the NEC facility and spectators were required to wear helmets as a safety precaution.
The flying vehicle was demonstrated in a netted cage area in Japan. (Image Credit: sky news)
The purpose of this demonstration was to observe how heavy aircraft maintains flight, which acts differently than a smaller, commercial drone. NEC has also been running experiments for many months, but the unveiling on August 5th was the first time the aircraft was demonstrated to the public.
NEC will use its knowledge on autonomous control, airport systems, and data networks to further develop the prototype and other products like it. The company will be aiming to develop a management system for logistics use in 2023. To achieve that by putting those technologies together for management systems for flying automobiles, the company will need flight data. This is something they can gather from the prototype and various demonstrations.
The Japanese government hopes flying cars will be ready for everyday travel use by the 2030s and has funded the construction of a large test course in Fukushima, an area devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophes. They also hope to use flying cars as a way of connecting islands in the Mie resort area.
Japan also wants to be a world leader in the sector but could have some pretty stiff competition with Dubai, another country pursuing the technology to produce flying vehicles. However, there are still some obstacles NEC will have to overcome before flying cars will become widely used, like better battery life and a need for regulations and safety concerns. Safety pretty much covers all concerns, really.
Japanese startup Cartivator also attempted to build a flying car, but their experiment didn’t go as planned. During demonstrations in 2017, their vehicle crashed, but they have also developed the technology since then, so their vehicle will last longer. NEC is one of over 80 companies sponsoring Cartivator’s flying car.
While the machines are designed for unmanned delivery flights by 2023 and everyday travel by 2030, the aircraft could also be used in disaster relief operations, according to officials.
Uber is also working on launching their own version of unmanned flight delivery services called Uber Air in the United States and they plan on demonstrating flights in 2020 with commercial operations starting in 2023.
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