Japanese flying car developer SkyDrive has secured $14 million in a fresh funding round, which will finance the startup to carry out flight tests with humans on board.
Tokyo-based venture capital firm STRIVE III Limited Liability Partnership and ITOCHU Technology Ventures, the venture capital arm of Japanese ITOCHU Corporation, poured money into the new round.
Drone Fund, a Japanese investment fund that focuses on drone startups, 3D printer developer Z Corporation, and tech-focused investment company Energy & Environment Investment also participated in the investment, SkyDrive announced in a recent statement.
STRIVE partner Tatsuo Tsutsumi steps up as outside director of SkyDrive.
Flying car, also known as Electrical Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) vehicle, is a general term for mobility with electric, autopilot, and vertical take-off and landing functions.
The flying car industry, expected to reach $1.5 trillion globally by 2040 per Morgan Stanley research, is highlighted by Japanese authorities as a means of alleviation of congestion in developed countries, emergency use, and transportation which does not require infrastructure in developing countries. Japan aims to start the commercial use of flying cars by 2030.
“The Japanese government decided to start the industrialization of flying cars in the Growth Strategy Cabinet meeting in fiscal 2023. If the flying car is implemented, we will be able to shorten the travel time than it is now, and it will be possible to develop new routes,” said Kotaro Chiba, co-representative of Drone Fund.
As the first developer of flying cars in Japan, SkyDrive was established in the summer of 2018 by the members of CARTIVATOR, a group of aircraft, drones, and automotive engineers. The company and CARTIVATOR started the first Japanese outdoor flight test for the unmanned flying car in December 2018. The company also teamed up with Aichi Prefecture and Toyota City to open the country’s largest flying car flight test field in June 2019.
Development for this year’s manned flight test launch is underway. The company is also preparing for the flight demonstration in the summer of 2020 and final sales release in 2023.
“We are clear that our product will improve the lives of consumers right across the world by the efficiency of moving and happiness of flying – be it linking people to jobs, their family or a dream holiday. Flying cars will be the travel mode of the future and today we took a giant leap towards making that happen,” said SkyDrive chief executive Tomohiro Fukuzawa.
“Securing the backing of these investors will be instrumental in getting our world-leading technology off the ground and into the skies,” he said.
The next phase in the firm’s expansion plan is to recruit talent and work on product development and certification.
SkyDrive is among a group of companies trying to seize the initiative in the emerging flying car industry worldwide. Uber Air, the aerial ridesharing unit of Uber, announced in June 2019 that it will kick off a trial site for its flying car taxi service in 2020 and shuttle passengers around cities by 2023.
EHang, an autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology brand operated by China’s Beijing Yi-Hang Creation Science & Technology, performed its first passenger-carrying AAV demonstration flight in northeastern China’s Jilin province in August 2019.