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This Startup Has Pulled Off Japan’s First Manned Multi-rotor Flight

Japan’s eVTOL market is led by a company known as Cartivator. Cartivator started off as a side project by a group comprised of Toyota employees and was funded by Toyota to the tune of $354,000. This is the same group that created the NEC’s air taxi concept last year and now its spinoff SkyDrive has published a picture of what it is claiming to be the very first manned multirotor test flight.

Cartivator is known for making its aircraft as simplistic as is possible. The NEC concept was a very basic big-prop quadcopter that featured a cabin hanging underneath. The SkyDrive prototype that they have recently shown off is an 8-rotor coaxial multirotor that comes with a small cabin placed on top along with clear plastic shields between the pilot and the props.

This approach, surprisingly, has not deterred investors in any way whatsoever since $14 million has been put into SkyDrive during the investment round last year. This provided the company with quite a lean budget for the eVTOL development but definitely with a good enough starting point to prove their mettle.

The multi-rotors won’t probably be able to offer a lot in terms of flight efficiency or range but let’s also bear in mind that Japan is focused on a hydrogen economy and the hydrogen-powered multi-rotors might not have to worry about the range at all. That is because of the fact that the high energy density of liquid hydrogen enables Japan to have fuel cell-powered multi-rotors almost immediately. SkyDrive, however, has not commented on this at all.

The manned flight tests commenced in December 2019 and have been going on up until March. It was at that time that SkyDrive was happy to announce its ‘technical verification’ phase as complete and also said that the controllability and flight stability of the test aircraft had been confirmed. The new CTO Nobuo Kishi who is an aerospace engineer who held top posts at Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, SkyDrive is planning to launch its eVTOL product into the Japanese market by 2023. Do let us know what you think of this eVTOL contraption!

This is what the future will look like:

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