A future with flying cars might be closer than you think. On 5 August 2019, Japanese electronics firm NEC revealed their prototype for a giant drone, developed with their partner Cartivator.
Their electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft weighs around 330 pounds and is equipped with four propellers. During a recent trial, the aircraft was able to lift itself 10 feet in the air and fly 65 feet before landing safely on the ground again. The whole trial lasted just less than a minute.
Last year, the Japanese Government announced a country-wide initiative for companies to build eVTOLs with driverless capabilities. They have granted Cartivator permission for outdoor flights, and the company plans to start mass-producing these in 2026.
Speaking to Bloomberg, leader of the project at NEC, Kouji Okada, said, “Japan is a densely populated country and that means flying cars could greatly alleviate the burden on road traffic.
“We are positioning ourselves as an enabler for air mobility, providing location data and building communications infrastructure for flying cars.”
Electric vehicles are essential, as they produce far fewer carbon emissions than regular cars.
Japan is not the only country making headway with this technology.
In June, Uber announced that test flights for their ridesharing service would begin in 2020. Melbourne Australia will be the first city outside the US to test the service, joining other pilot cities Dallas, Texas and Los Angeles, California.
“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” said Uber’s general manager for Australia, New Zealand, and North Asia, Susan Anderson.
“This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, make Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air. We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”
They have also joined hands with a company named Jaunt Air Mobility to make the Uber Air dream a reality. The eVTOL resembles a helicopter which Uber Air is banking on to make their mobility plans possible.
Uber Elevate Director of Engineering, Mark Moore, said in a press statement, “Jaunt Air Mobility has assembled a highly talented team of experienced engineers with a long history of designing and certifying eVTOL vehicles.
Martin Peryea, Jaunt’s Chief Technology Officer, has led many helicopter development programs as a chief engineer and brings invaluable to developing low noise, reliable, and safe aircraft.
“I look forward to seeing what our teams accomplish together as we aim to accelerate Jaunt’s commercialization efforts.”
According to Inverse, there are now 120 eVTOL projects being tested worldwide. While there are still barriers to overcome, they predict limited commercial flights will be up and running within the next five-to-ten years.