Vietnamese technology group CT plans to buy 100 of SkyDrive’s SD-05 three-seat eVTOL aircraft under the terms of a preorder memorandum of understanding signed with the Japanese manufacturer on July 21. The Ho Chi Minh City-based group’s CT UAV division, which is developing its uncrewed air vehicles (UAV) business, will acquire the all-electric vehicles.
The deal was announced a day after U.S. Part 135 charter operator Austin Aviation signed a letter of intent covering provisional preorders for five of the aircraft, which is expected to enter service in 2026. The company intends to offer air taxi services in South Carolina.
SkyDrive unveiled the three-seat eVTOL air taxi at the Paris Air Show in June as a larger version of the original two-seat model, with the original SD-05 designation to be retained. The vehicle will have a range of just nine miles and is intended for short hops, such as trips to and from airports.
In November 2022, Vietnamese renewable-energy company Pacific Group preordered 10 of the SD-05 model and committed to options for another 90 units. This agreement will now cover the new three-seat version of the aircraft.
Along with CT UAV, it will work with SkyDrive to develop business models and support infrastructure for eVTOL air services in Vietnam, where economic growth is colliding with crowded urban transportation networks. CT UAV, one of nine CT Group businesses, is working to integrate artificial intelligence with uncrewed vehicle technology and is active in drone development and operations. CT Group is also involved in urban development, construction, and logistics.
South Carolina Has Advanced Air Mobility Ambitions
Toyota City-based SkyDrive announced the deal with Austin Aviation during an event on July 20 in Beaufort, South Carolina, where it is already working with ground infrastructure group Volatus to develop plans for advanced air mobility (AAM) services in the state. Beaufort is the Japanese company’s U.S. headquarters and Austin Aviation is based 45 miles away in Walterboro.
Austin Aviation is a subsidiary of Lowcountry Aviation Company. It has agreed to make its facilities available to SkyDrive as part of its plans to expand operations in the U.S.
“Sustainable electric propulsion vertical takeoff and landing vehicles are the next new exciting challenge in general aviation, following the early lead of the automotive industry with electric propulsion,” said Austin Aviation president Alex Cavazzoni. “With the SkyDrive vehicle and all South Carolina stakeholders, we look forward to being a part of this exciting new chapter in general aviation, as this new pioneering electric technology matures into reality.”
SkyDrive founder and CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa was in Beaufort for the signing event. He said that since announcing plans to enter the U.S. market in January, the company has received “an overwhelming amount of support from local, regional, and state organizations” in South Carolina. SkyDrive's backers include the Japanese automotive group Suzuki.
Earlier this year, SkyDrive announced other provisional orders for the SD-05 vehicle from the Japanese engineering group Taiho and also from Drone Fund venture capitalist founder Kotaro Chiba. The latter agreement was the company's first sale of its eVTOL vehicles to a private owner who intends to fly the aircraft himself.
This story was updated on July 24 to clarify that the new three-seat version of SkyDrive's eVTOL aircraft will retain the SD-05 designation used for the original two-seat design. The company will not produce the two-seat model.