The mobile revolution on land has begun with the development of autonomous driving technology, but efforts toward the mobile revolution in the sky are also steadily progressing. Development of eVTOL, the so-called "flying car," is progressing.
In Japan, the public and private sectors are working together to develop laws and make rules with an eye on research and development and practical application, and it seems that the temperature is rising year by year. Airframe development and demonstration experiments of flying cars are also active in Japan and overseas, and the IPO (initial public offering) rush of development companies is expected to start in the not too distant future.
In this article, we have summarized the definition and outline of flying cars, the latest development status in the world as of February 2022, and the efforts of Japanese local governments. Especially in Japan, Osaka is focusing on social implementation of flying cars, so we will introduce Osaka's efforts in detail.
Article table of contents
There is no clear definition for a flying car, but in general, it often refers to "motors that take off and land vertically automatically and electrically." The vertical take-off and landing aircraft is called "VTOL" (Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft), and the electric type is called "eVTOL".
In some cases, it refers to an aircraft "drone" that can fly unmanned by remote control or automatic control, and in other cases, it refers to an EV (electric vehicle) -based aircraft equipped with a propeller or automatic control system. If a person claims to be a "flying car" with some element, it seems that the current situation is in the category of flying cars.
In addition, there are companies that are developing a system that balances land and air routes, and travel and flight by unitizing the mechanism for traveling on the ground and the mechanism required for flying, and transferring the cabin to each unit. ..
Isn't it a car if you can't drive on the road? However, since the concept of the word "car" has the meaning of "things that individuals use for their daily movements," the definition of a car does not necessarily require driving on the road. It doesn't look like it.
Overseas, it is called "Skycar," "Aircar," "Urban Air Mobility," "Personal Air Vehicle," and "Flying cars." There is also. Even in Japan, the number of cases called air mobility is increasing.
▼ About flying cars | Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Civil Aviation Bureau https://www.mlit.go.jp/common/001400794.pdf
Flying cars can be roughly categorized according to whether they are winged or propeller type, whether they have an engine or are driven by a motor, and whether they can drive on the road with tires.
The type that is being developed most is a type that makes the drone larger as it is and makes it possible to ride. The mechanism is basically the same as that of a drone, and many of them can be easily operated by electric remote control, movement control, or joystick. At least four propellers are attached to increase lift while maintaining balance, including weight reduction of the body.
A model that has tires mounted on this drone type and enables road driving has also been developed. The tire and propeller are independent, and the type that the foldable propeller deploys during flight, and the type that the propeller is built in the wheel part of the tire, and when flying, the tire opens sideways and the wheel turns upward and turns the propeller. The concept of various ideas is born.
In addition, the type with wings is equipped with an engine, and it is common to store the wings when driving on the road. It is an image of a small airplane like a Cessna plane with a wing retracting function.
Both are designed for a small number of passengers, and the key is how to improve energy efficiency, especially in the case of electric motors.
Higher levels of safety are essential than those required for self-driving cars and drones, as well as conventional cars. As well as stable flight capability, constant communication function, backup function to prevent falling in case of emergency, and landing support function are also required.
In addition, on the premise of electrification, improvement of battery technology is indispensable, and it seems that an important technical issue will be how to secure a light and high-capacity power supply in combination with the weight reduction of the entire body.
The current thinking is that flying cars are likely to be subject to aviation law regulations and require airworthiness certification to ensure safety and reliability. However, if the same level of regulation as aircraft and helicopters is applied, it will be a big hurdle, and research and development for practical use may be greatly set back.
Also, unlike airplanes, they do not fly far above, and because they mainly fly at low altitudes, problems such as superficies may occur.
First of all, it seems that a new framework will be needed to lower the hurdles without compromising safety while referring to overseas trends, such as limiting applications and airspace.
At the initial introduction stage, it is difficult to build an environment that can take off and land anywhere, and it seems that a certain takeoff and landing place such as a heliport will be required.
In addition, it seems necessary to have a system in which sensors and AI (artificial intelligence) autonomously play the role of a control tower, such as charging stations and sensors that send and receive information on obstacles and buildings in the air.
If flying cars are put into practical use in earnest, innumerable aircraft will fly in the air compared to conventional airplanes, and the risk of collision will increase. Therefore, it may be necessary in the future to create something like an "air map" that covers various routes and to develop an aerial road that will be an air route.
New businesses such as flying cars are also places where startups with the latest technologies and new ideas can play an active role, but research and development requires tens of billions of yen.
It is ideal to collect by sponsors, investment and investment, but if a public support system is established in consideration of public nature and contribution to the development of science, the sense of speed of development will increase.
Just as there are concerns about the realization of self-driving cars, there will be voices against flying cars due to the inherent dangers and technical aspects.
A certain degree of voice is unavoidable, and it is of course necessary to make efforts to eliminate that anxiety, but how to improve the technical and safety aspects so that residents will not be anxious at the stage of the demonstration experiment. It is also important to take the time to thoroughly inform people about what they are doing and why they are necessary for society, and to improve their momentum.
[Reference] For the awareness survey of flying cars, see "When will flying taxis and flying cars be realized? About half of the latest surveys" I want to ride "AQU Advanced Technology Research Institute" MaaS to a promising market "| Autonomous driving lab".
When heading to the destination, the number of transfers such as trains, buses, and taxis is reduced, and routes that depended on roads can be connected with almost straight lines, so it is possible to significantly reduce the cruising distance and required time. become.
In addition, vacant roads will run normally, and in urban areas where overcrowding is progressing, it will be possible to operate flexibly, such as avoiding traffic congestion by flying.
It is possible to move to places where roads are not maintained, it is possible to cross rivers without bridges and cross small passes, and it is also possible to move directly to the rooftops and high floors of skyscrapers. Be done.
In addition, there is little traffic such as liners, and there seems to be demand as a means of transportation to remote islands located relatively close to the main island. Since a small number of people can travel like a taxi, it can be used as a daily foot for local residents and tourists.
If you use it as an emergency vehicle that tends to arrive late due to traffic jams in the event of a traffic accident, you can significantly reduce the arrival time. It seems to have great significance as an existence between a doctor helicopter and an ambulance.
In addition, even if road traffic is cut off during a large-scale disaster, it will be possible to carry out prompt rescue, grasp the current situation, and conduct investigation activities smoothly.
Although it may be affected by the weather, it may be able to respond to mountain accidents and marine accidents.
At the beginning of the introduction, there is no doubt that it will be flooded with people who want to ride due to its rarity, and it will be a major tourist attraction. You can enjoy an elegant trip while traveling, or you can enjoy it cheaply as a simplified version of helicopter sightseeing.
Flying cars can also carry a certain amount of luggage. In fields where demonstration experiments using unmanned drones are in progress, there are great expectations for contributions to logistics, such as efficient home delivery to places with poor access.
Small unmanned aerial vehicles such as drones are leveled according to the flight technology implemented.
Level 1 is "in-visual maneuvering" and refers to the most popular and common form of small unmanned aerial vehicle. Spraying pesticides in agriculture and aerial photography for creating video content are roughly equivalent to this level.
Level 2 is "automatic / autonomous flight within the visual range", and automatic flight is performed within the range visible to the administrator. This corresponds to inspection of relatively large-scale equipment such as aerial photo surveying and solar panels.
Level 3 will be "out-of-sight flight in no man's land", and from here the automatic driving system etc. will show its true character. The no-man's land at this time refers to places such as mountains and rivers where it is unlikely that a third party will enter, and enables automatic flight without the placement of an assistant. It corresponds to the delivery of packages to remote islands and mountainous areas and the inspection of long infrastructure.
Level 4 is "out-of-sight flight in a manned area (over a third party)", enabling automatic flight without the placement of an assistant, including over urban areas. It corresponds to logistics, security, infrastructure inspection, etc. in the city.
By the way, these are leveling on the premise that people are not placed, and there is no leveling with people on it yet.
[Reference] For related articles, see "What is the flight level of small unmanned aerial vehicles (drones, etc.)?" Level 4 "is possible with the revision of the Aviation Law."
The public-private council for the realization of flying cars "Public-private council for the air movement revolution" was established in 2018, and the first council was held in August of the same year. Discussions were held on technological development and system development that Japan should work on, and in December of the same year, a draft roadmap for practical use was presented.
Members of the public-private council include experts such as the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, university officials, Drone Fund, CARTIVATOR, SkyDrive, Nippon Electric, Pro Drone, which develops aviation industry, drones, and flying cars. Tetra Aviation, Uber Japan, SUBARU, ANA Holdings, Yamato Holdings, Airbus Japan, AirX, Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory, Japan Airlines, Bell Helicopter, Boeing Japan, Air Mobility, ORIX, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Rakuten, etc. ing.
Currently, it seems that the issues are being organized for social implementation by referring to the roadmaps, technical issues, social issues, etc. unique to each development company.
[Reference] See also "[Material commentary]" Japan Airlines x Flying Cars ", Assumed Scenarios Revealed" for the efforts of each development company.
In the roadmap, we will proceed with flight tests and demonstration experiments from 2019, develop systems and systems based on the demonstration results and business models presented by businesses, and aim to put things from movement to practical use by 2023. It's a stance. After that, it will expand to the movement of people in rural areas and the movement of people in cities.
In the meantime, we will review the system development of the transportation and use business according to the new business model, as well as the system development and technology development according to the technological development such as remote control from the ground, advanced automatic flight by aircraft and system. We will review safety standards and examination methods according to the situation, improve the airspace and radio wave usage environment in anticipation of business development, provide comprehensive flight management services, and secure places where takeoff and landing can be continued. It is a policy to go.
▼ Roadmap for the Sky Movement Revolution https://www.meti.go.jp/press/2018/12/20181220007/20181220007_01.pdf
[Reference] For the roadmap for the air movement revolution, see "Draft roadmap for commercialization of flying cars at the 2020s Public-Private Council."
Apart from the public-private council for the air mobile revolution, the Cabinet-led liaison council of related ministries and agencies on small unmanned aircraft and the public-private council for improving the environment for small unmanned aircraft are also "empty. "Roadmap for the Industrial Revolution" is being formulated and updated. This is a content that aims at industrial development such as logistics, security and surveying by the evolution of drone technology.
In the latest version of Roadmap 2020 (draft), along with a roadmap divided into environmental maintenance, technology development, and social implementation, logistics, disaster response, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, infrastructure maintenance, surveying, security, medical care, etc. The feature is that the roadmap is summarized by field.
Here, it is said that non-visual flight (level 4) in manned areas will be realized after 2022, and luggage delivery in areas including cities, wide area patrol security such as urban areas, medical support by emergency transportation, etc. will be realized.
A volunteer organization established mainly by young members of the automobile / aviation industry and startups with the mission of "providing dreams (= expansion of capabilities) to the next generation through mobility". In parallel with the activities of the group, SkyDrive Inc. was established in August 2018 for the practical use of flying cars.
We aim to realize "true free movement" without infrastructure and create an era where anyone can fly in the sky at any time by 2050. It is a vertical take-off and landing type compact flight that does not require roads or runways. We are developing a car.
In May 2019, CARTIVATOR and SkyDrive signed an agreement with Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, and by making it possible to utilize Japan's largest indoor flight test site, the demonstration environment was set up, and in December of the same year, Japan's first "flying" Manned flight test of "Car" has started.
In August 2020, a public manned flight test was conducted at the Toyota test field, and the manned test aircraft SD-03 model was unveiled. The aircraft is a one-seater, and it is a system that stabilizes flight by assisting with computer control under pilot control.
The goal is to start selling flying cars in 2023 and realize autonomous driving around 2030.
[Reference] For CARTIVATOR and SkyDrive, see "Announced funding of 3.9 billion yen! From SkyDrive for flying car development, Development Bank of Japan, etc."
A project to develop a personal plane that can be operated automatically, led by Morimoto Institute of Technology. In April 2018, the aircraft equipped with a variable propeller pitch succeeded in the first flight under the public release.
In 2019, he launched the development venture Skylink Technologies and is the secretary of PPKP. In September of the same year, Skylink obtained a business license for the manufacture of unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft.
The development of an automatic operation system such as a fixed-wing aircraft control system, collision prevention system, and remote monitoring / operation system, as well as the development of a VTOL system capable of vertical takeoff, will be completed by 2020, and Osaka in 2025. The policy is to exhibit at the Expo.
[Reference] Regarding PPKP's efforts, a propeller that dramatically improves the performance of "flying cars" has appeared! See also.
Tetra Aviation, a startup from the University of Tokyo, achieved a feat at the very high-profile competition "GoFly" in which famous companies and organizations related to the aircraft industry participate.
The company participated in the international competition "GoFly" competing for the development of personal flying machines, entered the world's top 10 in Phase 1 in June 2018, and passed Phase 2 in March 2019, and proceeded to the final selection.
He won the Pratt & Whitney Disrupter Award at the final round of judging in February 2020, when he obtained a test flight permit in the United States. Tetra was the only winner because there was no team for each award selected by the main sponsor Boeing.
Development is continuing after the Games, and it has been announced that joint research with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) will start in August 2020.
[Reference] Regarding Tetra's efforts, "Hinomaru Tetra's flying car, the" only winner "in the GoFly final! See also.
Prodrone, which is engaged in the research and development and manufacturing of industrial drone systems, is also developing eVTOL, and the most original one is the development of the emergency drone "flying ambulance".
It is supposed to transport the injured and sick, and in some cases, an emergency medical technician will board on the outbound route, and after treatment, the injured and sick will board on the return route. A type that directly mounts a stretcher is also under consideration. We are looking to provide services to local governments such as fire departments, medical institutions, the Self-Defense Forces, large circuits, and large theme parks.
It can be used as a relay from the accident site to a medical institution or from the accident site to a place where an ambulance can reach, and it is likely to attract attention as a technology that will carry the last one mile in an emergency.
Aeronext, which is engaged in research and development of industrial drones, is developing flying robots that will be responsible for future logistics and air mobility that will be responsible for the movement of people.
Based on the concept of "flying gondola," Air Mobility is developing with a focus on safety and comfort that anyone can easily use without feeling any resistance.
The principle prototype "Next MOBILITY" that embodies the flying gondola has already appeared. The first aircraft is one-third the size of a one-seater aircraft, but we plan to announce an aircraft that can accommodate multiple people in the future.
[Reference] Regarding Aeronext's efforts, "Get into the United States with a" flying gondola "! See also Aeronext Exhibits at CES 2020.
Fukushima Prefecture will fully open the "Fukushima Robot Test Field" in March 2020 in Minamisoma City as a base for research and development and demonstration experiments of "land, sea and air" robots such as unmanned aircraft, flying cars, and self-driving cars. ing.
It has already succeeded in attracting companies such as Denso, which develops drones, SkyDrive, which handles flying cars, and Tetra Aviation, and is increasing its presence as a stage to support the air movement revolution.
An "unmanned aerial vehicle area" has been developed on the premises of the Fukushima Robot Test Field, and is equipped with facilities such as a heliport, runway, hangar, and airfield with a buffer net as a base for test flights of flying cars.
[Reference] As a related article, "Fukushima becomes" Fukushima Valley "! ?? The robot test field is fully open, and automatic driving demonstration is also available. "
Aichi Prefecture has demonstration fields for flying cars and drones in various parts of the prefecture, and it is said that 60 companies have supported more than 400 demonstration experiments of drones.
In addition, Toyota City is closely related to SkyDrive Inc., which develops flying cars, and in 2017 it provided "Manufacturing Creation Base SENTAN" as the company's activity base, and in May 2019, it developed flying cars. We have concluded a cooperation agreement on.
[Reference] See also "Collaboration with Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture and CARTIVATOR in the development of" flying cars "" for related articles.
In November 2020, Osaka Prefecture established the "Sky Mobile Revolutionary Society Implementation Osaka Roundtable". This organization is mainly composed of companies that are enthusiastic about realizing flying cars in Osaka and Kansai, and about 40 companies and organizations such as aircraft manufacturers, service suppliers, and research institutes participate. It seems that discussions and demonstration experiments will be carried out with the aim of implementing a flying car.
In addition, Osaka Prefecture is planning to fly a flying car at the "Osaka Kansai Expo" scheduled to be held in 2025. It seems that it will be used for moving to Kansai International Airport and the city center. Details will be described later.
[Reference] For related articles, see "Flying car" By all means realized in Osaka "and Governor Yoshimura announced the establishment of a round table."
Mie Prefecture aims to "create a richer local city than the city" by realizing a flying car. We are exploring the use of flying cars as a means of living support, tourism resources, transportation, disaster prevention measures, etc. in remote islands and depopulated areas, and in the 2020 budget, we have allocated about 30 million yen to the "air movement promotion project".
From November 2019 to January 2020, in cooperation with JTB and others, a demonstration experiment of an unmanned aerial vehicle was conducted in Kumano City and Minamiise City. In January 2020, we conducted a demonstration experiment with Rakuten to deliver products to remote islands using unmanned aerial vehicles.
In 2021, as a public offering project of the prefecture, Air Mobility's "demonstration experiment using the drone of the navigation system" AirNavi "of the" sky car "" was adopted. Air Mobility is a company engaged in the platform business of flying cars, and verifies the usefulness of the navigation system for flying cars in the prefecture.
[Reference] For related articles, see "[Material commentary] Mie Prefecture, to realize" richer than the city "with flying cars."
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is known for adopting SkyDrive's efforts in the "Innovation TOKYO Project that Opens the Future," a subsidized project that has been underway since FY2018. In addition, it is also active in fostering momentum for practical use, such as holding seminars on industrial drones.
While promoting efforts to support the development of autonomous driving technology and robots, it will support the efforts of private companies in the field of air mobility such as flying cars.
[Reference] See also "SkyDrive for flying car development, decided by a subsidized project in Tokyo" as a related article.
"Osaka / Kansai Expo" scheduled to be held in 2025. Osaka Prefecture is aiming to introduce a flying car at this Expo.
Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura of Osaka Prefecture said at a press conference held in November 2020, "As a new technology, let's make more and more effective use of this flying car at the Expo." From 2023, we will promote the commercialization of flying cars, and first promote the realization of air taxis.
In addition, Osaka Prefecture has newly added 20 million yen as "flying car social implementation promotion project cost" in the budget plan for 2021, which shows that it is positively stance toward commercialization of flying cars. ..
[Reference] See also "Budget for flying cars! Governor Yoshimura" If you pass over the river and the sea "" as a related article.
In September 2021, Osaka Prefecture signed a partnership agreement with SkyDrive, a startup company that develops flying cars. It seems that they will strengthen cooperation toward the social implementation of flying cars, foster momentum for the 2025 Expo, develop technology, create new businesses, and revitalize the region.
In connection with this collaboration, Governor Yoshimura made a strong comment in a press release from SkyDrive Inc., saying, "We will create a future Osaka where flying cars will fly as soon as possible."
The concept of the Kansai / Osaka Expo is "People's Living Lab". According to the basic plan of the Japan International Exposition Association in 2025, the Expo venue will be used as a "future society showcase" to incorporate advanced technologies and systems such as flying cars.
At the Expo, visitors are expected to be able to experience flying cars as a mobile service. According to the plan, a takeoff and landing port will be set up in the green area facing the sea on the west side of the venue called "Green World" to fly.
By the way, the Expo will be held from April 13th (Sun) to October 13th (Mon), 2025, and the venue will be Yumeshima in the coastal area of Osaka City.
The autopilot aircraft program "Vahana project" being developed by Airbus France in collaboration with a company in Silicon Valley in the United States. Eight rotors drive the propeller for vertical takeoff and landing. It is said that one occupant can be transported. It doesn't seem to have tires for running on the ground.
By February 2018, the first flight video of the full-scale model "Vahana Alpha One" was released, and it is said that it was anti-aircraft at a height of up to 5 meters for 53 seconds.
A project announced by Audi, a major German automobile manufacturer, in June 2018 to build a model case for the trial operation of an air taxi. The signing ceremony was attended by the Minister of Transport of the German Federation, the Minister of Digitization, Airbus of France, the mayor of Ingolstadt, an aerospace equipment development and manufacturing company, and the test in the Ingolstadt region with partner companies in the political and industrial fields. The operation will be started.
In addition, Audi is an EV automatic driving concept car "Pop.Up Next" that evolved the drone EV project "Pop.Up" launched by Airbus and Italdesign under Audi at the Geneva Motor Show held in March 2018. (Pop Up Next) ”has been announced.
In November of the same year, the prototype of Pop.Up Next was unveiled for the first time.自動運転機能を備えたEVモジュール（グラウンドモジュール）と利用者が乗り込むパッセンジャーカプセル、フライトモジュールを組み合わせることで陸路の走行と飛行の両方を可能にする、まさに空飛ぶクルマと言えるシステムだ。
英自動車メーカーのアストンマーティンも、垂直離着陸機能を備えた3人乗りの空飛ぶコンセプトカー「Volante Vision Concept（ヴォランテ・ビジョン・コンセプト）」を発表している。
ヘリコプター大手の米Bell HelicopterはCES2019でeVTOL「Bell Nexus」を発表している。電動モデルに加え、ハイブリッド電気プラットフォームで構成可能な4ダクトモデル「Bell Nexus 4EX」なども開発を進めているようだ。
【参考】ヤマトとベルの取り組みについては「ヤマト、空の自動運転機を10年以内に実用化 米ベルヘリコプター社が開発担う」も参照。住友商事とベルの取り組みについては「住友商事、米Bell社と提携 空飛ぶタクシー分野に参入」も参照。
【参考】Volocopterの取り組みについては「Volocopter、シンガポールで「空飛ぶタクシー」の有人飛行に成功！ See also.
米Wisk Aeroは自律飛行型エアタクシーの機体を開発する企業で、航空機大手の米ボーイングとeVTOL（電動垂直離着陸機）開発企業の米Kitty Hawkの合弁企業として、2019年に設立された。
2021年5月にはエアモビリティ用ターミナルを所有する米BLADE Urban Air Mobilityとの提携を発表した。ちなみにBLADEは同月に米ナスダック市場で取引を開始している。
【参考】関連記事としては「米Joby Aviationが1位！空飛ぶクルマ業界、資金調達ランキング」「「空飛ぶクルマ」開発の米Joby Aviationが上場へ トヨタも出資」も参照。