Abiko, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
NEC Corporation has developed an electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) testbed aircraft to help in the development of autonomous management systems for eVTOL aircraft. NEC stated that the much larger eVTOL aircraft fly differently than small drones and that a full-sized aircraft is needed to obtain the data necessary for the validation of aircraft management systems currently being tested. (Image from video by Yuri Kageyama.)
NEC reported that they’ve been flying their eVTOL testbed behind closed doors for several months in Abiko, near Tokyo, but it was first revealed to the public on August 5, 2019 (image from video by Yuri Kageyama). The tethered test flight took about one minute with an altitude of about three meters (about 10 feet) and was flown inside a giant cage to protect everyone viewing the flight.
Upon inspection of the photos and videos of their aircraft, it appears that the four (4) propellers, protected by enclosing ducts, do not tilt on any axis for flight control. Therefore, flight control is most likely achieved by each individual propeller adjusting its speed independently to make any directional changes.
Behind the somewhat underwhelming, drama-free demonstration lies a bigger ambition: Japan’s government wants the country to become a leader in flying cars after missing out on advancements in technology such as electric cars and ride-hailing services. The country’s technological road map calls for shipping goods by flying cars by around 2023 and letting people ride in flying cars in cities by the 2030s.
Japan is encouraging the development of new eVTOL aircraft because it will not only help people get around in urban areas but also help transporting people to the thousands of Japanese islands. The Japanese archipelago, the islands that form Japan, consist of 6,852 islands.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL
- Propulsion: 4 sets of electric propellers, each set containing 3propeller blades
- Power: Electric
- Weight: 148 kg (326 lb)
- Height: 1.3 m (4.25 ft)
- Width: 3.7. m (12 ft)
- Length: 3.9 m (12.8 ft)
- Landing gear: Tricycle wheeled landing gear
- Function: Flying testbed to design autonomous management systems for eVTOL aircraft.
- NEC Corporation website
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Forbes, Dec. 11, 2019