Is it a flying car, or just a really large drone? The line is getting blurrier, especially now that Japan’s NEC Corp. just unveiled a prototype with four propellers that was able to smoothly hover for about a minute.
Tested just outside Tokyo in a giant cage used as a safety precaution, the unmanned vehicle reached as high as 10 feet into the air.
NEC’s push for a flying car comes from the Japanese government, which announced a countrywide initiative last year for companies to build an electric (or hybrid electric) vehicle with driverless capabilities that can take off and land vertically, a feature commonly known as VTOL and previously reserved for military jets.
MORE FROM POPULAR MECHANICS
This is a Flying Car
“This is such a totally new sector [that] Japan has a good chance of not falling behind,” said Fumiaki Ebihara, the government official in charge of the project, back in September 2018.
“Japan is a densely populated country and that means flying cars could greatly alleviate the burden on road traffic,” Kouji Okada, one of the project leads at NEC, told Bloomberg. “We are positioning ourselves as an enabler for air mobility, providing location data and building communications infrastructure for flying cars.”
NEC isn’t the first company, and Japan isn’t the first country, to try its hand at the technology, which Popular Mechanics has been writing about since 1906. The Dubai Police hope to add hoverbikes to their repertoire. And here in the U.S., Uber has been dreaming of VTOL taxis since 2016.