The “flying car” takes off in Japan with one person on board

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A flying car has successfully taken off from the ground in Japan, which could pave the way for the product’s launch in 2023.

The Japanese company SkyDrive, one of the many “flying car” projects in the world, performed a modest test flight with one person on board.

Video shows a car with propellers lifting several feet off the ground and hovering in the air for four minutes.

Tomohiro Fukuzawa, who is leading the SkyDrive effort, said he hopes the plane can be turned into a real product within the next three years, but acknowledged that it is essential to make it safe.

“Of the more than 100 flying car projects around the world, only a handful have been successful with one person on board,” he told reporters.

“I hope a lot of people will want to ride it and feel safe.

The machine can only fly for five to ten minutes, but it is hoped that this can be expanded to 30. This would give the product more potential, with manufacturers hoping to be able to export it to China.

The flying car lifted off the ground and hovered in the air for four minutes (Credits: AP)

Unlike airplanes and helicopters, evtol (electric vertical take-off and landing) vehicles offer rapid point-to-point personal travel, at least in principle.

They could get rid of the hassle of airports and traffic jams and the cost of hiring pilots, the developers say.

However, their commercialization poses enormous challenges, from the size of batteries to air traffic control.

“A lot of things have to happen,” said Sanjiv Singh, a professor at the Institute of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, who also works on an evtol aircraft.

“If they cost $ 10 million, no one will buy them. If they fly for five minutes, no one will buy them. If they fall from the sky every now and then, no one will buy them, ”Singh said.

It is hoped that the aircraft can be marketed to the general public by the 2030s (Photo: AP)

The SkyDrive project started as a volunteer project called Cartivator in 2012, with funding from major Japanese companies, including automaker Toyota, electronics company Panasonic, and video game developer Bandai Namco.

A demonstration flight three years ago went badly, but the machine has improved and the project recently received another 3.9 billion yen (£ 27.8million) funding round, including the Development Bank of Japan.

The Japanese government is convinced that flying cars can take off and has established a “road map” that would see them used for business services by 2023 and extended to commercial use by the 2030s.

They highlighted the potential of the project to link remote areas and provide lifelines in times of disaster.

Flying car in Japan

The Japanese government says the project could connect remote areas and provide a lifeline in the event of a disaster (Image: AP)

Experts compare the buzz around flying cars to the days when the aviation industry started with the Wright brothers and the auto industry with the Ford Model T.

Sebastian Thrun, general manager of the evtol Kitty Hawk project, said it takes time for planes, cellphones and self-driving cars to be accepted.

“But the time between technology and social adoption could be compressed more for evtol vehicles,” he said.

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