When Will Japan's Flying Cars Take Flight?



The desire to travel shorter distances in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles is still very much alive, and this is particularly true in Japan. Around the world, several flying car designs are being developed, with Airbus, Boeing, and Uber taking the lead. The goal of the Japanese government's massive funding investment in the development of flying cars is to make the futuristic method of transportation widely available.

Many vendors in the transportation sector are interested in the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) sector, with a particular focus on renewable, electric power sources. Some of the startups, parking base operators and the government are already drawing the skeleton for this roadmap and here are the developments taking place in various regions across Japan.

Flight Routes by the Government

This summer, the government intends to set up permanent flight routes over a coastal region of Fukushima Prefecture for the testing of flying cars and drones, which are being hailed as the future of transportation. The project is intended to aid in the ongoing restoration and revival of the disaster-stricken prefecture by luring startup businesses to the sector.

The proposed route connects bases at the Fukushima Robot Test Field in Minami-Soma and the Test Field Runway, 13 kilometers away in Namie, via three different routes: over the sea, along the coast, and over land. The national and prefectural governments jointly set up the facilities.

The path will be selected based on considerations on land or at sea, such as avoiding skies over populated areas, busy highways, and other locations, in order to reduce the risk of harm to people in the event that the vehicle crashes or another accident happens.


In fact, several emergency landing places will be built along the routes, which will be located at altitudes lower than 150 meters. It will be uncommon to have permanent test flight routes as they are often only established during authorized testing periods, according to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.

After checking the placement of power transmission towers, electrical wires, and other barriers, the government wants to settle on the specific paths. The usage of the coastal and maritime routes could begin as soon as this summer.

The number of test flights needed for the practical application of flying vehicles is enormous, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. The initiative anticipates the involvement of drone-related businesses initially, with test flights of flying cars to follow in the future.

Parking Pad Sites to Park Flying Cars

For this operation, under the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's urban air mobility (UAM) initiative, Mitsubishi Estate has been selected as an operator. As part of this project, rooftops of Mitsubishi Estate skyscrapers in Tokyo's Marunouchi business district may be used as pad sites. The real estate developer also owns parking lots in the suburbs, which are also being taken into consideration.

Mitsubishi Estate intends to rent out its parking lots and roofs to eVTOL operators for use as takeoff and landing sites. It intends to eventually take its operations outside of Tokyo to Nagoya and Osaka.

In addition, Mitsubishi Estate intends to construct housing, commercial, and retail buildings close to these Flying-car pads in the hopes that they would draw customers.

Furthermore, by 2030, the Japanese government hopes to have heavy load freight drones and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxis completely commercialized.

Development in eVTOL Vehicles

By offering a flexible mobility option for travelers traveling between airports and tourist attractions, the eVTOL vehicles are anticipated to lessen traffic on the roads.

A contract was struck by the German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter GmbH (formerly E-Volo GmbH) and JAL to jointly investigate commercial potential in Japan for air mobility services, particularly for Volocopter's eVTOL technology.

For the first manned flight of an electric multicopter called the Volocopter VC1 prototype back in 2011, the business holds a Guinness Book of World Records for it. Three eVTOL platform varieties are available from Volocopter. VoloCity and VoloConnect are two air taxis, and VoloDrone is an unmanned heavy-lift drone.

The 18-rotor VTOL aircraft VoloCity has a maximum speed of roughly 100 kph and a range of about 35 kilometers. It can carry up to two passengers and small items of luggage including handbags, briefcases, and backpacks.

The fixed-wing aircraft VoloConnect is powered by rotors, six electric motors, and two propulsion fans. With a top airspeed of 250 kph and a cruise speed of 180 kph, it has a maximum carrying capacity of four persons over a 100-kilometer route.

While the VoloDrone is intended to provide heavy-lift services to a variety of sectors, particularly across challenging terrain where more conventional modes of transportation are constrained. It has a range of 40 kilometers and a payload capacity of up to 200 kilos.

In addition to its strategic collaboration with Volocopter, JAL also has one with the UK-based aircraft leasing firm Avolon, through which it may buy or lease up to 50 Vertical VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft with the option to buy or lease an additional 50.

Then, with the 9.6 billion yen ($67 million) it just raised, the Japanese flying car startup SkyDrive is quickening the development of its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle, with an eye toward a maiden commercial flight by the Osaka World Expo in 2025. SkyDrive, a Japanese business, has created a two-seater eVTOL vehicle that is now undergoing testing, but they are far from the only ones looking at ways to launch our cars into the air.

Air Taxi Services

The third-biggest city in Japan, Osaka, will soon provide airborne ridesharing services, according to the country's largest airline and flying taxi startup Joby Aviation. According to the Californian company and airline ANA, flying would reduce the hour-long drive from central Osaka to the city's Kansai Airport to just 15 minutes.

For a long time, the Japanese government has pushed for the development of aerial ridesharing services. In 2018, it unveiled a document called the "roadmap towards air mobility revolution," which targeted 2023 as the starting date for commercial flying taxi services. In order to provide an air taxi service for the 2025 event, Osaka officials and the Japanese flying vehicle startup Skydrive struck a contract last year. Yet, despite the promotion of aerial rideshare services by the airline sector and politicians in Japan, more work needs to be done before the flying taxis can take off.

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