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 25, 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 $45 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 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 in 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.
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 cargo drone with payload capacity of 30 kg and a flight time of approximately nine 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 eight partially ducted propellers (with two positioned in each corner of the fuselage).
The company was boosted in March 2022 by the decision of Suzuki Motor Corp to get involved in the program. The Japanese carmaker will provide support with research and development work, preparations for manufacturing, and business planning.
In early May 2022, the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau approved the type certification basis for SkyDrive.
In July 2022, SkyDrive partnered with Toray Carbon Magic to supply the material for the SD-05. The material will be a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic that SkyDrive states will make the eVTOL more energy efficient, lighter, and stronger.
In November 2022, the program was boosted by a provisional order for 100 aircraft from Vietnam's Pacific group.
In January 2023, SkyDrive announced plans to establish a partnership in South Carolina to explore and develop use cases for the SD-05 in the U.S. market. Then, the following month, it was one of several companies chosen by organizers of Osaka's Expo 2025 event to operate eVTOL air services as part of the Smart Mobility Expo in the Japanese city.
In April 2023, SkyDrive reported that it has raised further capital via its Series C funding round with undisclosed investments from Japan's MUFG Bank and a target fund including electronic components group Murata Manufacturing. The company said that the total raised through the Series C campaign now exceeds 10 billion yen ($75.1 million), representing an increase of just over $3 million since the company's earlier funding announcement in September 2022 when the total raised stood at 9.6 billion yen. Since the company launched in 2018, it says it has raised more than 15 billion yen ($112.6 million).