The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

With New Funding, SkyDrive Unveils Two-Seat, Short-hop eVTOL Aircraft

SkyDrive has unveiled the design for its SD-05 eVTOL aircraft, with images presented on September 26 showing significant changes from the SD-03 model, which made its first flight in August 2020. The Japanese start-up, which has also just raised 9.6 billion yen ($66.7 million) in a Series C funding round, said that the two-seat, all-electric vehicle is intended for short flights of up to just 10 km (six miles).

The company told FutureFlight it expects to conduct flight testing in 2024 with the aim of getting approval to start air taxi services during the World Expo 2025 to be hosted by the Japanese city of Osaka. It would not say when it will build the first full-scale prototype, but it has already agreed on a type certification process with Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.

The projected 10-km range is far less than that of most other in-development eVTOL aircraft, which are generally expected to be able to fly sectors of between around 35 and 160 kilometers (22 to 100 miles). With a pilot and a single passenger on board, SkyDrive says, the SD-05 will provide “a shortcut” where local geography or constrained existing public transportation is inconvenient for travelers.

“This vehicle is not just a simple means of traveling from point A to B,” said the company’s design director, Takumi Yamaoto. “Based on the design concept of ‘giving wings to daily travel,’ it is also a safer and more enjoyable travel partner.”

The Osaka Bay area is viewed as a suitable early-adopter market for the “last-mile” flight solution because of the constraints of road transportation. SkyDrive claimed it could take 40 minutes to drive one kilometer, while the SD-05 would make the same trip in barely five minutes. The company sees the vehicle as having applications for tourism and emergency medical flights.

The design presented on September 26 shows 12 motor-propeller units installed in the corners of the upper airframe. SkyDrive’s program partners include cabin interior specialist Jamco, composite materials group Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Plastics, and battery manufacturer Electric Power Systems.

The Toyota City-based company’s C Series funding round was backed by 13 companies, taking the total raised by SkyDrive so far to 14.7 billion yen. It was underwritten by groups including the Suzuki Motor Corp., the Kansai Electric Power Company, Kintetsu Group Holdings, and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.