Japan to use world’s smallest flying car to transfer Olympic flame at Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony

A team of Japanese engineers is developing a miniature flying car to drive the Olympic flame around the New National Stadium track and then take off to light the Olympic cauldron.


Image of the SkyDrive from Cart!vator’s website

Cart!vator (Cartivator),  the company behind these plans, comprises a team of about 20 young engineers. Founded in 2012, the company’s objective is develop a flying car that can be used to reduce the reliance on roads, and also be used to lift people out of disaster zones, SportTechie reported.

In order to develop the vehicle, the Cart!vator team has been conducting tests at an abandoned primary school in the mountains of the Aichi Prefecture after being given permission to use this building by the city of Toyota.

“We aim to create (a) world where anyone can fly in the sky anytime by 2050,” the Cart!vator website states. “To realize our vision, a compact flying car is necessary with a vertical takeoff and landing type, which does not need roads and runways to take off.”

According to SportTechnie, the car, known as “SkyDrive” will be a single-seat electric vehicle design that will have one front wheel, two rear wheels, and a rotor in each of the four corners. Each rotor will consist of two propellers that will allow the car to take off and land vertically.

In terms of dimensions, the vehicle is expected to be roughly three metres in length and 1.3 metres in width. According to the company, this will make it the world’s smallest flying car.

Cart!vator’s website says the company hopes to start selling SkyDrive to the public in 2023, with mass production planned by 2030.

“If technological innovation is achieved in the battery performance and other fields, the vehicle could be commercialized in the future,” Masafumi Miwa, a mechanical engineering professor and Cart!vator partner, told the Asahi Shimbun.

First, however, the team needs to get the vehicle to fly higher. Its current prototype can only fly at an altitude of one metre for a period of five seconds, according to the Asahi Shimbun. The company believes this can be remedied by reducing the weight of the vehicle by replacing the 180kg aluminium frame with a 100kg frame made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic.

The car will not be cheap to make. The company says that it needs 30 million yen (GBP 208,000) from investors to make the prototype ready for a manned test flight. To raise these funds, the company presented a 1/5 scale prototype at a Maker Faire in Tokyo in 2014, and set up a page on the Japanese crowdfunding website zenmono. By January 2015, it had raised almost 2.6 million yen (about GBP 18,000). “It used the money to purchase a full-scale prototype from a joint researcher, and that’s the prototype it’s experimenting with now,” reported Sports Technie. If the company raises the 30 million yen, it plans to perform a manned-piloted demonstration of the car in January 2019.

Another concern is safety. A breakdown in the air probably means a fatal crash.

According to the SportTechie report, at least nine other companies are also trying to build some version of a flying car. “Google co-founder Larry Page has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in two different flying car companies. Slovakian company AeroMobil could be launching its own flying car as early as next year. And the Massachusetts-based company Terrafugia has already built a flying car that has received legal approval for personal use, although it’s really more of a street-legal plane,” the website revealed.

Sources: SportTechie, Asahi Shimbun

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