The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

SkyDrive was launched in 2018 as part of Japan's Cartivator consortium to advance plans for both a flying car and a cargo-carrying unmanned aircraft.  It was ready to start taking orders for the 30-kg payload cargo drone as of May 2020. At the time, the company said it was aiming to have the initial SD-03 model of flying car type certified by Japanese authorities before the end of 2023. On August 24, 2020, the SkyDrive team achieved a first public, manned flight with the SD-03 and indicated it intended to step up flight testing of the single-seat vehicle.

On September 30, 2019, the company announced that it had raised $14 million in a Series A funding round, taking its total to $18.5 million. Its backers include Drone Fund, Z Corporation, Strive III Limited Liability Partnership, ITOCHU Technology Ventures Inc., and Energy & Environment Investment Inc. On August 28, 2020, SkyDrive announced it had raised just over $31 million in a Series B funding round. It was supported by several of the Series A backers along with new investors such as the Development Bank of Japan, Itochu Corporation, Eneos Innovation Partners, Obayashi Corporation, NEC Corporation, ViviServe Corporation, and Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing Company. The company is also backed by an extensive network of "corporate sponsors," many of which are leading Japanese corporations. As of the end of August 2020, the company had raised a total of around $60 million since its inception.

On January 27, 2021, chief technology officer Nobuo Kishi provided an update on the program to the Vertical Flight Society's Electric VTOL Symposium. He outlined a timeline that showed sales for the SD-3 starting in 2023, and with plans to expand the scope of operations in the Tokyo Bay and Osaka Bay areas between then and 2026. The company plans to provide transportation for visitors to a major exhibition in Osaka in 2025 and the local prefectural government has started a roundtable group involving 40 companies to plan for these operations. SkyDrive also hopes to be ready to begin autonomous flight demonstrations from 2028. The operating concept shows ground-based vehicles using city-center parking areas as takeoff pads. These would likely be located next to gas stations, with electric recharging facilities.

By the end of 2021, SkyDrive intends to expand its team of engineers beyond 100. As of January 2021, it employed a total of 90 people. Also by the end of 2021, it expects to have defined all system and define requirements for the vehicle.

SkyDrive is also stepping up work on its cargo/industrial drones, for which sales started in 2020, and mass production is due to get underway in 2022. The portfolio includes a pair of drones with payload capacity of either 10 or 30 kg and a flight time of between 10 and 20 minutes. The company envisages applications such as lifting work in docks and on construction sites, as well as in mountainous or other hard-to-access locations.

On October 29, 2021, Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism accepted SkyDrive's application for the type certification of the flying car. The company is now projecting that this approval will be complete in 2025, representing a slip of up to two years on its original target. The version of the aircraft being assessed for certification is now designated as the SD-05. The final production version is currently designated as the SD-XX and from design drawings is likely to feature some refinements to the fuselage, including shrouds for the partially ducted rotors. 

Timeline

Projected

type certification granted

In October 2021, SkyDrive reported that it now expects its SD-05 flying car to complete type certification in 2025. This represents a delay of up to two years compared with its earlier projection that approval would be achieved by the end of 2023.

Missed Projection

type certification applied

On October 29, 2021, Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism accepted SkyDrive's application for the type certification of SkyDrive's SD-05 flying car. The company is now projecting that this approval will be complete in 2025, representing a slip of up to two years on its original target. 

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

SkyDrive seems to enjoy a high degree of "sponsorship" support from a long list of leading Japanese companies, laying a foundation for partnerships that may help it get its flying cars and other urban air mobility products to market. As of August 2020, it had completed both Series A and B funding rounds to raise around $50 million. The first public manned flight of its SD-03 vehicle also represented a significant landmark in its ambitious timeline to bring the product into service before the end of 2023.

A company presentation to the Vertical Flight Society in January 2021 gave a strong impression of what appears to be a coherent business plan, backed by a rising level of in-house expertise and a steady flow of financial resources. There is an expectation that sales of SkyDrive's cargo drones will provide cash flow to support the development of the flying car product.

In late October, when reporting that Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism had accepted its application for the SD-03's type certification, SkyDrive said that it now expects to get the approval in 2025, which represents a significant slip in its timeline for service entry. 

SkyDrive Models

SD-03 Specifications

local vtol Flying Car/Hover Bike

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    1
  • Range
    19 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    37 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    propeller
  • Power Source
    electric
  • Endurance
    n/a
  • Max Altitude
    1,640 ft
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    n/a
  • MGTOW
    1,100 lb
  • Payload Weight
    n/a

Dimensions

  • Length
    13 ft
  • Width
    12 ft
  • Height
    5 ft
  • Wingspan
    n/a

SkyDrive made a first public manned flight with its SD-03 single seat electric flying car on August 24, 2020. It aims to have the vehicle certified and in service by the end of 2023.

Investors

Total Amount Invested: $45m

Key Personnel

Tomohiro Fukuzawa
Tomohiro Fukuzawa

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)