The Future of Flying: A Japanese Flying Car Takes to the Skies

This Japanese prototype took months to build, and was displayed earlier this week.
Fabienne Lang
Screenshot from YouTube videoKyodo News Plus/YouTube

If you've seen the movie Back to the Future's Delorean flying car, you'll have a pretty good idea of what one such vehicle should look like. 

A sleeker, helicopter-like flying vehicle by NEC Corporation from Japan has arrived. They have created their own version of what a futuristic flying car looks like. 

The company has been working on the prototype for months, before unveiling it on Monday this week.

The car resembles a big drone, but that's about all a drone and the flying car have in common.


'Flying car' resembles a big drone and a helicopter combined

The four-rotor model lifts off in a similar fashion to a helicopter and uses four rotating propellors. 

The purpose of the flying car is partly to alleviate Japan's, and indeed the world's problem with traffic jams. Flying cars will enable a larger area for navigating, and thus fewer cars will be stuck in roadblocks. 

Furthermore, NEC's goal is to create a management system for autonomous flying cars. This is quite a big task, but this invention is a sure sign that they're on the right path. 

Their hope is to have the logistics ready by 2023

In order for the company to get these technologies up and running and turn them into a management system so they can operate flying cars, they need flight data. This is exactly what this prototype can offer. 

Measuring 3.9 meters in height and 1.3 meters in width, the prototype weighs 148 kilograms. It was able to hover three minutes over the ground for around a minute. 

This particular experiment, carried out on Monday in front of numerous journalists, was to see how the machine operates when in flight mode. 

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A few factors will have to be taken into consideration if the project keeps running and flying cars, in fact, become a reality. Notably, the airspace will have to be cleared, something the Japanese government is taking seriously and is prepared to consider.

Japan's traffic is notorious in its big cities, and this would certainly alleviate part of the problem. Furthermore, for those hard-to-reach places, towns or villages, flying cars would also be of great assistance. 

If all goes to plan, the aim for these flying cars in Japan is for them to be used for logistical purposes by 2023, for personal transport in rural areas by the mid-2020s, and in urban areas by the 2030s.

An ambitious plan, but flying cars are picking up speed, as we see other companies joining the rush to create autonomous and flying vehicles, such as Airbus SE, Boeing Co., and Uber Technologies Inc.

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