Made by NEC , the vehicle is essentially a large drone with four propellers that’s capable of carrying people. The Japanese electronics maker demonstrated the machine, flying without a passenger, at a Tokyo suburb on Monday. Powered by a battery, it rose briefly to about 3 meters (10 ft.) above the ground before settling down again.
“We at NEC believe that a revolution of travel centred on flying cars will occur,” NEC Corporation Vice President Norihiko Ishiguro told the Associated Press. “When that time comes, we want to provide technology and services as a management base.”
Behind the somewhat underwhelming, drama-free demonstration lies a bigger ambition: Japan’s government wants the country to become a leader in flying cars after missing out on advancements in technology such as electric cars and ride-hailing services. The country’s technological roadmap calls for shipping goods by flying cars by around 2023 and letting people ride in flying cars in cities by the 2030s.
“You may think of ‘Back to the Future,'” Fumiaki Ebihara, a Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry official who is overseeing the country’s development, told CBS News in 2018. “Up to now, it was just a dream, but with innovations in motors and batteries, it’s time for it to become real.”
The Japanese government has already built a test course for flying cars in Fukushima, a site that hit in 2011 by a tsunami, earthquake and nuclear accident, according to the Associated Press. It’s part of the country’s infrastructure plan to use the technology to deliver goods starting in 2023 and for everyday travel by the 2030s, Ishiguro told the Associated Press.
Japan isn’t the only country seeking to usher in a flying-car utopia; Dubai, Singapore, and New Zealand have expressed similar intentions. Google co-founder Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk Corp. is also working on a flying car, as is Uber Technologies Inc.