A Japanese startup with financial backing from Toyota has successfully tested a flying car and hopes to make the vehicle available to consumers in three years.
SkyDrive's SD-03 prototype, in which a pilot sat at the controls, took flight on August 25 at a net-enclosed field in Japan, where it circled for about four minutes before landing safely back on the ground, according to the company.
SkyDrive, which said the vehicle is designed to be the world's smallest electric vehicle that can take off and land from a vertical position, plans to introduce it commercially in 2023, Chief Technology Officer Nobuo Kishi said in announcing the test flight.
"We want to realize a society where flying cars are an accessible and convenient means of transportation in the skies and people are able to experience a safe, secure and comfortable new way of life," SkyDrive CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa said in a statement.
SkyDrive's flying car looks nothing like what George Jetson flew around Orbit City in the 1960s when the futuristic Hannah-Barbara cartoon first aired. The SkyDrive aircraft is about 6.5 feet tall and 13 feet wide, or roughly the size of two parked SUVs. The SD-03 runs off eight electric motors that power different aspects of the craft, which includes four pairs of rotors, two white front lights and a red light that runs around the bottom of the aircraft's body.
SkyDrive and other companies developing similar technologies must figure out how to keep such aircraft charged for lengthy journeys if they're to have any commercial value, said CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave.
"One of the challenges is developing better, lighter batteries that let these things fly farther and longer," Van Cleave said in news report on the flying vehicle.
SkyDrive joins a small list of overseas companies that are developing flying cars, including Aeromobil of Slovania and Tactical Robotics of Israel. In the U.S., California-based Hoversurf has been testing a flying taxi. Uber has been tas well, with hopes of launching UberAir by early 2023.
Companies are investing in flying-car prototypes as experts predict individual air transportation will be a trillion-dollar industry by 2040, said Tim Stevens, editor-in-chief of CNET's Roadshow.