Moves towards the practical application of flying cars take shape
In Japan, the countdown to the 2025 Japan International Exposition (abbreviated as ‘Osaka-Kansai Expo’, scheduled for 13 April 2025 – 13 October 2025) is now less than two years old, and efforts to popularise flying cars are stepping up to a stage with concrete buyers. In Japan, domestic aircraft manufacturer SkyDrive started general pre-orders for the commercial aircraft SD-05 on 13 April 2023, exactly two years before the Expo, and the first aircraft was pre-ordered by Kotaro Chiba, the first owner of a HondaJet in Japan (delivery date after 2025). Reservations for corporate customers have already begun, and enquiries from overseas are increasing, with Vietnamese developer Pacific Group placing a pre-order for up to 100 aircraft in November 2022. In Japan, there are many challenges to the operation of V-ports (take-off and landing sites), especially in urban areas, due to the difficulty of developing V-ports, and it remains to be seen how V-ports will be developed for the Osaka-Kansai Expo. However, in February 2023, the four types of flying cars scheduled to operate at the Expo were revealed, and with regard to V-port operations, the port within the venue will be ORIX will be in charge of the V-port operation, Kansai Electric Power Co. will be responsible for the maintenance and operation of the charging facilities, and Aero Facility will provide advice on the overall system (the situation outside the venue is still under consideration). Efforts to popularise flying cars will continue after the Expo, with the aim of continuing the operation of flying cars in the suburbs of Osaka, the venue of the Expo, and also considering starting operations in the Setouchi region, which is considered to have significant benefits from flying cars (effective use of tourism resources such as beautiful island scenery, more efficient travel between islands, etc.), In April 2023, Oho Sangyo (industrial robot sales) in Kagawa Prefecture signed a pre-order contract for SkyDrive’s SD-5 and decided to invest in SkyDrive. Taiho Sangyo is preparing to realise a route for remote island tourism in Kagawa and Ehime prefectures. At the start, the range will be limited to 5-10 km, but Taiho Sangyo hopes to “bring the trend of the Expo to Shikoku (Taiho Sangyo)” and will take a small step towards the widespread use of flying cars.
At automobile-related companies, too, initiatives for flying cars are taking shape. In August 2022, Denso announced that the electric aircraft motors it is jointly developing with Honeywell will be used in aircraft manufactured by Lilium of Germany, while in early May 2023, Joby Aviation, a US flying car aircraft manufacturer in which Toyota has an equity stake, announced that the US Air Force had offered to purchase up to nine flying cars. The company announced that it had received a USD 55 million (JPY 7.5 billion) contract extension for Toyota also mentioned flying vehicles in its April 2023 New Organisational Policy Briefing in promoting ‘diversification of mobility’. Specific initiatives for flying cars are expected to intensify in the future, with the Expo as a milestone, and expectations for flying cars as a new growth business for the automobile industry are high.
The development status and market outlook for flying cars can be understood through interviews with key persons from companies and national/municipal authorities involved in aircraft, parts, operations/services and infrastructure, as well as the initiatives and policy trends of various companies and organisations.