SkyDrive’s SD-03, a demonstration model for its SD-05 air taxi, was unveiled at the CES 2022 event in Las Vegas. (SkyDrive)

Tokyo-based startup SkyDrive revealed its full-scale demonstration model SD-03 aircraft at CES 2022 (Consumer Electronic Show) in Las Vegas last week. The vehicle has completed testing for piloted flight, and the Model SD-05 air taxi is already in development, having received its type certification from the Japanese transportation ministry—which no other developers in the country have achieved so far.

SkyDrive develops zero-emission aircraft, including cargo drones and manned vehicles. The startup was founded in 2018 and began performing driving and indoor flight tests of its unmanned SD-01 vehicle in the same year. Its first public flight test with a manned aircraft, its SD-03 model, was accomplished in 2020, and the team continues to work towards commercialization with a goal of presenting its SD-05 air taxi at the World Expo 2025 in Osaka. SkyDrive’s cargo drones are already employed at work sites in mountainous areas of Japan. The drones can carry payloads of over 66 pounds.

SkyDrive’s SD-03 successfully completed a manned flight test in 2020. (SkyDrive)

The Chief Operating Officer of SkyDrive, Takehiro Sato, remarked, “The SD-03 model is the culmination of our expertise in drone technologies and aerodynamic engineering. What we want to see in the future is that SkyDrive’s emission-free vehicles take off from and land in your parking lot and helipads atop buildings, making door-to-door air travel a realistic choice of daily urban transportation,” as quoted in the announcement.

SkyDrive’s aircraft achieved type certification at the end of October from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT). The type certificate from MLIT confirms that the aircraft’s design, structure, and performance adheres to specific safety and environmental requirements. 

The air taxi achieved type certification in Japan in October 2021.

The first manned flight of the SD-03 model that took place in August 2020 lasted four minutes and carried one person. PR Manager Mayumi Ishii mentioned in an interview that one of the main roadblocks for the aircraft is its weight. “We hope we will have a final version by approximately 2040, but we are aiming to have a vehicle flying by the Osaka Expo in 2025,” she said.

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