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This Japanese Electric Air Taxi Is Proving to Be Highly Successful

This year is turning out to be a memorable one for SkyDrive, the Japanese eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) manufacturer headquartered in Toyota City. Its most recent success is securing a large number of orders from an AAM (advanced air mobility) company in Vietnam shortly after having confirmed the first US pre-orders.
SkyDrive secured its first US pre-orders and a large number of orders in Vietnam 7 photos
Photo: SkyDrive
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SkyDrive made a huge step at the beginning of 2023 when it announced its intention to enter the US market. Six months later, the Japanese manufacturer and its newly-established US home base in Beaufort, South Carolina, are thriving. Austin Aviation, a charter operator and Lowcountry Aviation Company (LCA) subsidiary, broke the ice with the first US pre-order for Skydrive's air taxi.

Austin Aviation played safe with a five-unit pre-order, but SkyDrive doesn't need to worry about numbers. One of its previous contracts with a Vietnam-based operator was recently doubled. Last year, the Japanese manufacturer and CT UAV JSC signed a MoU (memorandum of understanding) for 100 electric air taxi units. The Vietnamese company recently increased its order to 200, which proves that SkyDrive is on the right track.

The collaboration with CT UAV is complex and focused on a wider AAM ecosystem in Vietnam. SkyDrive will bring its aircraft and AAM expertise, while the Vietnamese operator will add a high-tech component, with a particular focus on AI integration.

Earlier this year, SkyDrive also received an important award. The prestigious International Forum (iF) Design Award competition named the SD-05 "The Most Accessible Flying Car. "The SD-05 prototype officially became known as SKYDRIVE at this year's Paris Air Show – a three-people air taxi boasting a so-called "rotor dome" design.

SkyDrive first made headlines with the SD-03. Introduced in 2020, it claimed to be the world's smallest eVTOL, measuring only 4 x 4 x 2 meters (13 x 13 x 6.5 feet). The miniature air taxi boasted a maximum take-off weight of 400 kg (880 lb). It was able to stay in the sky for just ten minutes, flying at just 50 kph (30 mph).

The SD-03 made its official debut at CES 2022 in Las Vegas but was quickly surpassed, fame-wise, by the bigger and stronger SD-05. With a take-off weight of more than 500 kg (1000 lb), the SD-05 increased speed to 100 kph (60 mph) and was able to operate for 30 minutes on a single charge. Still smaller than other eVTOL designs, the SD-05 claimed to be a compact alternative to larger air taxis that can have up to six seats.

The three-seat version known as SKYDRIVE is currently in the process of getting certified by JCAB (the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau). In the meantime, the manufacturer is working with an infrastructure expert, Volatus, as well as South Carolina-based operators, on developing an upcoming infrastructure network.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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