A Japan-based electric vertical takeoff and landing manufacturer with plans to open its U.S. headquarters in South Carolina has received a significant funding boost from the Japanese government.
SkyDrive Inc. a Japanese electric vehicle takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturer based in Japan with plans to establish U.S. headquarters in Beaufort County, has been chosen by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (“METI”) for the ”Next-generation Air Mobility Field” of the Small and Medium Enterprise Innovation Promotion Project (SBIR Phase3).
SkyDrive has been granted approximately 12.4 billion yen (approximately, $82.67 million), which will support the development of innovative technologies aimed at enhancing future social implementation, including reducing traffic congestion and lower emissions, according to a SkyDrive news release.
The SBIR program is a Japanese government initiative to grant startup companies working on advanced technologies that address societal challenges. The program supports research and development projects that have high potential for growth and positive impact on society.
In January 2022, SkyDrive, which is headquartered in Toyota, Japan, announced during a symposium in Arizona its plans to enter the U.S. market and establish its home base in Beaufort County.
SkyDrive, which is developing a commercial “flying car,” has outlined its plan to develop an advanced air mobility ecosystem in South Carolina while focusing on building a variety of practical use cases originating from two of its key airports in cooperation with local and state government agencies.
SkyDrive’s eVTOL technology
SkyDrive is developing a multicopter-type eVTOL aircraft with two passengers and a pilot. The aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight of less than 1.5 tons and is designed to be safe, quiet, and environmentally friendly, the release stated. There are approximately 10 eVTOL companies, including SkyDrive, that have begun type certification process for their eVTOLs presently. It features a unique patent pending rotor frame technology that allows it to land on rooftops, making it suitable and accessible aircraft for family, friends, and commuters with an affordable operating cost per person.
Impact of SBIR program
With the support of the Japanese government through the SBIR program, SkyDrive is going to develop the aircraft to fully satisfy market demands with the specification required from operators and be mass-produced, and also to obtain Type Certification for commercial operation in the next five years, the release stated.
The SBIR program enables SkyDrive to accelerate its research and development efforts, focusing on improving the performance, safety, and efficiency of its eVTOL aircraft. It will also support the development of new technologies and systems necessary for the successful deployment of eVTOLs in Japan and beyond.
SkyDrive was formally established in July 2018 after testing flying car concepts and prototypes from 2014 with the mission of “taking the lead in the once-in-a-century mobility revolution.”g