Japan’s Entry in Flying-Car Race Takes to the Air

Japanese startup SkyDrive demonstrates its drone-like flying car for the first time inside a cage. Photo: Peter Landers/Wall Street Journal

TOYOTA

CITY, Japan—A startup has demonstrated a battery-powered flying car for the first time in Japan with hopes of starting service for the public in 2023.

SkyDrive Inc. still needs to improve its technology and overcome regulatory hurdles. By the 2030s, the company envisions everyday commuting with drone-like vehicles that could drive on city streets before taking off like a helicopter.

Competition is already growing in the field of vehicles sometimes known as air taxis, aeromobiles or electrically powered vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles. Japan is behind companies in the U.S., Germany and China in developing the technology.

SkyDrive said its plans differ from others because it eventually hopes to include wheels on its vehicle so it could be driven into a home garage. It said the 880-pound test vehicle took up as much space as two cars.

“We’d like it to be something someone could use easily every day,” said Chief Executive Tomohiro Fukuzawa, who established the company in 2018 after working for Toyota Motor Corp.

SkyDrive said it recently completed a second round of fundraising with investment totaling about $37 million from the Development Bank of Japan Inc.,

NEC Corp.

and others.

It aims to start with a service in Osaka in 2023 that would ferry visitors for up to 10 minutes between tourist attractions. The plans call for a two-seat vehicle with a pilot and one paying passenger.

The vehicle it demonstrated in a mountainous part of Toyota City had just one seat and was piloted by a company engineer who kept his speed under 3 miles an hour. The demonstration was held in a cage because SkyDrive doesn’t yet have permission to test in open air.

Write to Peter Landers at peter.landers@wsj.com

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