Suzuki and SkyDrive

Suzuki Motor Corporation, in partnership with SkyDrive Inc., has started the production of flying cars at a Suzuki-owned manufacturing plant in Iwata City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. This facility has the capacity to produce 100 electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) flying cars annually.

These vehicles are fully electric, autonomous, and are also referred to as Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) or Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles.

In June 2023, Suzuki and SkyDrive entered into a manufacturing cooperation contract for the production of the SkyDrive (SD-05 type) through SkyDrive’s subsidiary, Sky Works Inc.

So, What Exactly is an eVTOL?

An eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) flying car is an electrically powered drone equipped with autonomous features such as Autopilot. The SkyDrive e-VTOL is a compact, three-seater drone designed to function similarly to a helicopter, capable of vertical take-off and landing. The primary focus of developing these commercial flying drones is for future “Air Taxi” services.

In recent years, there has been a surge in demand for personal transportation, leading to heavy traffic congestion in urban areas. Air taxis have emerged as a potential solution for easing intercity commuting by bypassing ground-level traffic.

While the automotive space may seem limited, several popular car makers are also involved in the development of flying cars or air taxis. The PAL-V Liberty was the first commercial flying car unit to go on sale, priced at £425,000 (approximately Rs 3.52 crore) in 2017.

Following suit is Korean carmaker Hyundai, which has also introduced an air taxi concept set to make its inaugural passenger flight in 2028.

Similar to SkyDrive, Hyundai’s concept will be based on the e-VTOL concept, but this mini aircraft could accommodate up to five passengers.

Another notable flying car prototype is the Aircar, designed by Nitra-based Klein Vision in 2022. It can seat two passengers and is capable of reaching air speeds of around 190 kph and altitudes of over 8,000ft. This flying car is powered by a 300hp, 1.6-liter BMW engine and has a range of 1,000km.

SkyDrive, a Japanese company headquartered in Toyota City, has been developing flying cars and cargo drones since 2018. While SkyDrive claims that the cargo drones are already operational in some mountainous areas in Japan, they initially developed a compact, two-seater electric flying car.

SkyDrive planned to commercialize the tested prototype, leading to a collaboration with Suzuki in 2022. Suzuki Motors is cooperating in the development of technologies, focusing on weight reduction through the basic policy of ‘Smaller, Fewer, Lighter, Shorter, Neater’, electrification, mass-production technologies, and business development in markets including India.

In addition to showcasing the eVTOL at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2024, SkyDrive Inc. also announced an agreement with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to test an eVTOL in Gujarat by 2027.

Along with testing, SkyDrive plans to create business opportunities as outlined in the cooperation agreement with the DST. Furthermore, the Japanese aircraft manufacturer has signed an MoU with Cyient, an Indian company based in Hyderabad, for further technological support for the SkyDrive eVTOL’s future in India.

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