Since the early 1900s, humankind has imagined a future with flying cars. Over the last century, various prototypes have been developed and one prototype, the Convair Model 118, actually came close to going into production.
Thanks to recent technological advances, there’s credible reason to hope flying cars can become reality, and a recent test in Japan confirms that we’re not just indulging in wishful thinking. Last week, the Japanese firm SkyDrive conducted a successful test flight of their flying car in development at Toyota's test centre in Japan.
SkyDrive's SD-03 prototype is a model designed for vertical take-offs landings, somewhat like a drone. It’s intended to be a concept for a new type of cab. It is very small with a total footprint of about 12 square feet, which means it could land in an area the size of two parking spaces. Its elevation is provided by four sets of counter-rotating rotors, each powered by its own engine. The company says the eight-rotor, four-engine configuration provides some safety in the event of a failure. It believes this approach could help alleviate the concerns of legislators who fear the danger of objects the size of a car falling from the sky.
The test flight at Toyota’s R&D centre lasted four minutes at an altitude of six feet.
If this model is eventually produced, it will be designed as a two-seater, this though the prototype itself is only a single-seater. The design incorporates headlights and lights, in the usual locations but also under the vehicle so that people on the ground can easily decipher the SD-03's movements. The firm plans to conduct further flight tests before the end of the year, with the long-term goal of sending cabs into the skies around Tokyo by 2023.
Will we really see flying cars in the sky in 2030? While it’s realistically difficult to answer in the affirmative at this point, there’s no denying we’re closer to the goal of having flying cars in use in the real world today than we’re ever been.