Japanese eVTOL aircraft developer SkyDrive says a Setouchi Islands tourism association has agreed to purchase an unspecified number of the company’s three-seat SD-05 air taxis for commercial use.
SkyDrive announced Friday that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Okayama Kurashiki Mizushima Aero & Space Industry Cluster Study Group (MASC), in which they pledged to collaborate on the development of commercial eVTOL operations in Japan’s Setouchi Islands, a group of thousands of small islands in the Seto Inland Sea.
MASC is a general incorporated association that aims to promote aerial tourism in the Setouchi Islands. As part of their agreement, MASC and SkyDrive will explore possible suburban air taxi routes as well as other commercial uses for SkyDrive’s eVTOL aircraft.
The fully electric SkyDrive SD-05 aircraft will be capable of transporting two passengers plus one pilot on short flights of up to around 15 kilometers (nine miles) at a maximum cruise speed of about 100 kph (62 mph), according to SkyDrive. It features a multicopter design with 12 electric motor-propeller units mounted to an overhead boom assembly.
SkyDrive aims to have its three-seat SD-05 eVTOL aircraft certified for commercial use in Japan sometime in the next five years, after which it plans to begin mass-producing the vehicle together with Suzuki at a factory in Iwata City. The company says it expects to have airworthiness certification in hand before the Osaka World Expo in 2025, where it plans to conduct public flight demonstrations.
MASC is also working with EHang and has preordered an unspecified number of the Chinese company’s VT-30 eVTOL aircraft, a longer-range version of the EH216 model for which it recently obtained type certification in China. EHang is also targeting commercial sightseeing applications for its autonomous two-seat vehicles.
SkyDrive has signed provisional sales agreements with operators in countries around the world, including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and the United States. Following its recent receipt of a government research grant worth 12.4 billion yen ($82.7 million), the company has raised at least $27.4 billion yen ($183 million). Its investors include the Suzuki Motor Corp., the Kansai Electric Power Company, Kintetsu Group Holdings, and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.