SD-01 (technology demonstrator)
Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
Founded in July 2018, SkyDrive Inc. is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) manufacturer based in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Tomohiro Fukuzawa is the chief executive officer and Nobuo Kishi is the chief technology officer. The mission of the company is to take the lead in the once-in-a-century mobility revolution to design and produce eVTOL passenger and air cargo aircraft for advanced air mobility (AAM). According to a SkyDrive article on April 6, 2023, its cumulative funding has now exceeded ¥15 billion yen. (All images: SkyDrive)
The company's goals is to make eVTOL aircraft safer than conventional aircraft, less costly, less noisy, autonomous and that require less infrastructure. The plan is to start using the aircraft in the mid-2020s for air transportation of goods and people in areas where conventional public transportation is slow or almost nonexistent in rural and urban areas. The company's vision is to create a future where everyone has access to eVTOL aircraft as their daily transportation in Japan and across the world.
A brief history of the company starts in September 2012 when Tomohiro Fukuzawa formed a volunteer group automotive, drone and aviation industry professionals, who would meet outside of business hours and started discussions by first stating "Let's do something interesting". Based on Fukuzawa's automotive background, he asked the group a fundamental question, "How do people move?" Eventually, more than 100 ideas were talked about, such as cars which could also be submarines to small enough cars that could move from room to room, inside a building.
After a year and a half of discussions in 2013, the group decided on flying cars. The company they formed was called Cartivator. The company name was created by combining the word car and cultivate with the definition of cultivate being more towards the word pioneer. As the business matured, it became difficult to continue with volunteer workers. This is why in July 2018, about 30 people from Cartivator founded SkyDrive Inc. The company originally had plans to make a flying car, a vehicle that can fly in the "Sky" and "Drive" on the road, hence the name SkyDrive. However, the company is only making eVTOL passenger aircraft at this time.
SD-01 one-fifth scale technology demonstrator aircraft
In 2014, a one-fifth scale SD-01 technology demonstrator aircraft made its first outdoor flight on June 3, 2017 in Toyota City, Japan by Cartivator (now SkyDrive). The technology demonstrator had eight propellers, eight electric motors and fixed skid type landing gear. The one-fifth scale prototype had variable pitch propellers for better control of the prototype. The aircraft was planned from the beginning to be an uncrewed prototype with a target cruise speed was 50 km/h (31 mph). The flying prototype picture show the prototype with a metal skeleton frame with no finished outer skin, with possibly skid type landing gear.
Another modified SD-01 was showcased at the Automotive Engineering Exposition 2018 Yokohama (Japan) May 23–25, 2018. From the pictures available, this SD-01 model is both a VTOL aircraft and road vehicle, with three wheels. To keep weight and complexity to a minimum, the rear wheel has an in-wheel electric motor and the front wheels use the same electric motor system as Toyota's electric single seat car called the COMS.
The company has stated they plan to make their eVTOL aircraft with three wheels so the aircraft can truly be a flying car. The target cruising ground speed is 60 km/h.
- Aircraft: Several uncrewed eVTOL technology demonstrator aircraft
- Capacity: No passengers
- Cruise speed (target): 50 km/h (31 mph)
- Maximum speed: 100 km/h (62 mph)
- Maximum altitude: 10 m (33 feet)
- Maximum takeoff weight: 400 kg (882 lbs)
- Propellers: 8 propellers
- Electric motors: 8 electric motors
- Power source: Battery packs
- Dimensions: 3.7 m L (12 feet) x 3.7 m W (12 feet) x 1.5 m H (4.9 feet)
- Safety Features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft so if one or more motors or propellers fail, the other working motors and propellers can safely land the aircraft.
- SkyDrive Inc. website
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- SkyDrive Inc. LinkedIn
- Article: Toyota Backs Japanese Flying Car Startup, Aviation Week, May 16, 2017
- Video: Toyota is working on a "flying car", Yuri Kageyama, June 3, 2017
- Article: Takeoff and cruise: Toyota making ‘flying car,’ luxury boat, AP News, June 3, 2017
- Article: Toyota's startup'first flying car flight test', Venture Square, June 6, 2017
- Article: Market Watch: Flying Cars, Modern Treatise, June 12, 2017
- Article: Flying car "CARTIVATOR" is based in Aichi, Tokyo-"SkyDrive SD-01" is also designed, Livedoor News, Sept. 17, 2017
- Article: Four propellers, attitude control and weight reduction of flying cars, Monoist, June 28, 2018
- Article: Japan aims high to have flying cars hit the skies in the 2020s, The Mainichi, Aug. 25, 2018
- Article: SkyDrive takes to the skies following groundbreaking finance deal worth 14 million USD, SkyDrive, Sept. 30, 2019
- Article: Former Toyotamen are taking up the challenge of the "Flying Car". It started with "Let's do something interesting", President Online, Apr. 17, 2020