A new flying car has been unveiled in Japan by NEC Corp. While it is essentially a drone with four propellers, the company says it will be capable of carrying people. Even though the prototype only hovered for a minute, it did fly and marks another impressive development in the hotly debated area of future transport.
Over the last few years in Japan, a number of small, passionate flying car communities have emerged. They believe that Japan has the engineering knowledge and the right environment to succeed (and lead) a global flying car industry. Venture capitalists in Japan have set up a fund called the ‘Drone Fund’ which is purely for investing purposes into autonomous aircraft and flying car companies.
Who Is NEC Corp.?
NEC Corp. is a Japanese multi-national company specialising in providing information technology products and services. They rank within the Fortune Global 500 and was selected among the Top 100 Global Innovators 2018-19. What’s even more impressive is that they’ve been in the top 100 for 8 consecutive years.
Some of their recent projects include the following:
- Multi-modal biometrics (Bio-IDiom and the Hachioji Model)
- Recognised for pioneering the Single-Chip Colour Camera
- Video Face Recognition Technology
- Iris Recognition Technology
Read more about NEC’s awards and achievements on their website.
NEC Flying Car Concept
Earlier this month, NEC demonstrated their battery-powered flying car in a Tokyo suburb. It rose to about 3 meters (10 ft) above the ground before landing again. While the demonstration may have seemed a little reserved, there is bigger ambition going on behind the scenes.
Fact is, Japan wants the country to become a leader in flying car technology especially since they largely missed out on electric cars and ride-hailing services. Their technological roadmap includes shipping goods using flying cars by 2023 and people flying in cities by 2030.
Future Of Air Mobility
According to Kouji Okada, flying car project leader at NEC, “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.”
Developing The Prototype
While the demo was among the first by any major Japanese company, NEC is not planning on mass producing it. NEC’s project partner, Cartivator, will manufacture the flying car instead. Tomohiro Fukuzawa, the start-up’s co-founder, confirmed this when he said that large scale production is planned for 2026.
NEC engineers and Cartivator spent approximately a year developing this particular model. It measures 3.9m long, 3.7m wide and 1.3 m tall with a total weight of about 150 kg. To ensure absolute control and safety, flying tests are performed in a large 10 x 20-meter cage helping avoid injuries or damage.
Other Flying Car Concepts In Development
The industry is rife with competition from global conglomerates to small start-ups trying their hand at engineering viable, working prototypes.
- Alaka’i Technologies, a hydrogen-powered eVTOL flying taxi
- A new UberAir service aims to launch electric flying taxis in partnership with NASA and the US Army
- CityHawk Wingless Flying Car
- The Chinese Ehang 184 Flying Taxi
- The SureFly VTOL Drone as seen at CES 2018
Before long, NEC’s flying car will be free to roam the skies as the Japanese government has already granted Cartivator a permit for outdoor flights. This flying car concept is the latest in a long line of achievements by a select few on the cutting edge of technology. However, a lot must still happen before the flying car industry truly takes off. Until then, let’s celebrate the well-deserved ingenuity that this future tech could offer.
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