No, Japan Did Not Really Grant A Flying Car A Safety Certificate

No, Japan Did Not Really Grant A Flying Car A Safety Certificate

The aviation world is abuzz with news that startup SkyDrive has achieved an amazing first. Making its rounds is a report that Japan has granted a safety certificate to a flying car. But not only is that not true, but the “flying car” is merely just another electric VTOL, and one that’s somehow worse than the rest.

According to a number of sources, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) granted SkyDrive its first type certificate for a flying car. It sounds really awesome and even seems to contradict our Collin Woodard’s take that flying cars aren’t real. As it turns out, the truth is far less cool.

The reports all cite SkyDrive’s own press release, but it seems like they misread it. Just to be sure, I checked the history of the press release and it is unchanged since its publishing date. By SkyDrive’s own admission, MLIT did not grant it a type certificate, but merely accepted the company’s application for a flying car type certificate. The distinction is important, and SkyDrive offers a handy explanation:

Under Japan’s Civil Aeronautics Law, MLIT issues a type certificate to certify that the design, structure, strength, and performance of a newly developed aircraft meet the necessary safety and environmental requirements for each type of aircraft. Certification is only granted after the aircraft had gone through a battery of studies and tests, including strength tests and flight tests.

An aircraft that has been granted a type certificate under Japan’s standards has been thoroughly tested, something that has not yet happened with SkyDrive’s project.

As reports, Japan hasn’t even figured out regulations for these types of vehicles. And perhaps even more importantly, the country hasn’t developed certification criteria for these vehicles, either. The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau says that its eVTOL regulatory framework may be closer to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration when all is said and done.

The acceptance of the application is really just the beginning as SkyDrive and Japan both figure out how to certify the thing and develop the laws around it. SkyDrive touts the acceptance of the application as a first for flying cars, but that’s really only because it persists in calling a VTOL a flying car.

Take a look at SkyDrive’s SD-03 “flying car.”

It looks exactly like all of the other hundred-plus electric VTOL projects out there. If anything, it’s actually worse. It uses eight rotors to lift a pilot into the air to move them around for a short time. SkyDrive isn’t releasing full specs, but it says that it can fly a max speed of about 48 km/h and has a flight time of 10 minutes. I can’t imagine where you would take this in ten minutes that you wouldn’t be better off walking to.

I actually love all of these eVTOLs out there and would love to fly one, but I do wish the companies building them had some emphasis on training and stopped calling them flying cars.

SkyDrive is developing the SD-03 into an eVTOL it’s calling the SD-05 for certificate evaluation purposes. Its end goal is to provide an eVTOL in 2025 for personal flying vehicles, urban air taxis, transportation for remote islands, emergency transport and more. If and when it does happen, it expects its vehicle to be sized and priced like a car. Are we talking Mitsubishi Mirage or Mercedes-Benz G-Class, here?

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