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Toyota poised to fly into a new era

Sky high: An artist’s impression of a Toyota-backed SkyDrive flying car being developed after hours by Toyota engineers.

SkyDrive set to take off and light the flying car flame for Toyota

Toyota logo15 Aug 2018

TOYOTA has signalled its aspirations for the flying car business by lodging a trademark application for the name SkyDrive for a drone-like electric vehicle that it hopes will make a spectacular debut by soaring above the Tokyo Olympic stadium to light the Olympic flame in 2020.
 
A team of Toyota engineers helped by aviation experts and financed by Toyota have been working afterhours on the project since 2014, with the intention of bringing a production version to market by 2025.
 
Toyota has embraced the project by getting its trademark attorneys to lodge the global trademark application for SkyDrive in May. The application is now pending.
 
Unusually for an automotive name application, it also covers a wide range of aeronautical applications, including aircraft, autogyros, tilt-rotor aircraft, helicopters and related technologies.
 
To date, the Japanese team of 22 engineers, designers and technicians – dubbed Cartivator – has produced only concepts, but it has declared its intention to make an unmanned prototype test flight later this year.
 
It then hopes to begin manned flights next year before – all being well with progress – providing the highlight of the Olympic Games opening ceremony in July 2020 in front of a global TV and web audience of hundreds of millions.
 
Toyota is the “mobility sponsor” of the summer and winter Olympics, signing an eight-year contract that started with this year’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
 
With Tokyo hosting the next summer games, Toyota is keen to take full advantage of this partnership by putting its latest mobility solutions to the fore. These will include a fleet of autonomous electric shuttles – dubbed e-Pallette – to transport athletes, media and officials around the Olympic village, along with hydrogen-fuel-cell and battery electric cars, vans and buses for transport to various venues.
 
According to the Cartivator team website, the two-passenger SkyDrive prototype will be 3.6 metres long, 1.7 metres wide and 1.1 metres high.
 
The weight of 400kg presumably includes the batteries to drive the electric motors driving four vertical lift-off propellers.
 
The cruising speed target is 60km/h, with a maximum speed of 100km/h.
 
A cruising altitude of just 50 metres is planned, probably to keep the vehicle below air traffic control space. No flying range has been intimated.
 
The rollout schedule for production has a target date of 2025 for the start of sales in small numbers, with mass production for developed counties underway by 2030.
 
Separately, mass production for developing countries is set for 2040, when the cost has come down.
 
The team says on its website that such a flying vehicle could make a major contribution to developing countries because it provides “infrastructure-free transportation”.
 
The team says its challenges include developing a vehicle that can operate in noise-controlled urban areas in all weathers with absolute safety.
 
“Our first target is to build the flying car and use it to light the 2020 Tokyo Olympic flame,” the team says.
 
To date, development work has been done in a former school provided by Toyota City, in Sentan.
 
Other components are developed in a workshop provided by TechShop in the Tokyo district of Akasaka.
 
The 2020 Olympic Games is the second summer Olympics hosted by Japan’s biggest city, the first being in 1964.

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