Aircraft

SkyDrive claims Japan's first manned multirotor flight

SkyDrive claims Japan's first ...
You're looking at Japan's first manned multirotor flight, by the SkyDrive team
You're looking at Japan's first manned multirotor flight, by the SkyDrive team
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The SkyDrive prototype in development
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The SkyDrive prototype in development
The "Mizuno Wave" impact-absorbing seat support, developed by Cartivator and SkyDrive, is inspired by a popular Japanese running shoe
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The "Mizuno Wave" impact-absorbing seat support, developed by Cartivator and SkyDrive, is inspired by a popular Japanese running shoe
You're looking at Japan's first manned multirotor flight, by the SkyDrive team
3/3
You're looking at Japan's first manned multirotor flight, by the SkyDrive team
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Japan's fledgeling eVTOL sector appears to be led by a company called Cartivator, started as a side project by a group of Toyota employees and indeed funded by Toyota to the tune of 40 million yen, or US$354,000. The group was responsible for NEC's wobbly air taxi concept last year, and its spinoff SkyDrive has now released a photo of what it claims is Japan's first manned multirotor test flight.

Cartivator's aircraft are about as simple as they come; the NEC concept was a simple big-prop quadcopter with a cabin dangling underneath, and the SkyDrive prototype they've just flown is an 8-rotor coaxial multirotor with a small, boxy cabin on top and some clear plastic shields between the pilot and the props. No fiddly, high efficiency flight mode transitioning for these guys, they're just going to plonk you in a big version of a Phantom drone.

This has not deterred investors, who put a very handy US$14 million into SkyDrive in an investment round last year, giving the company a very lean budget in the scheme of eVTOL development, but a good starting point to prove their mettle.

While straight-up multirotors might not offer much in the way of range or flight efficiency, let's not forget: Japan is pushing hard for a hydrogen economy, and hydrogen-powered multirotors may well not need to worry about range, since the high energy density of liquid hydrogen makes fuel cell-powered multirotors an immediate commercial possibility, while batteries still have several leaps to go before they're viable. SkyDrive isn't saying anything about hydrogen right now, but the ability to deliver long range flights and super-quick refueling would be no small advantage, and Japan would be an ideal place to start playing with hydrogen.

Manned flight tests began in December last year and continued until March, at which point the SkyDrive team was happy to pronounce its "technical verification" phase complete, with the "controllability and flight stability" of the test aircraft "confirmed." The pilot's feedback is now being consolidated into another round of design and prototyping.

The SkyDrive prototype in development
The SkyDrive prototype in development

Under the technical guidance of new CTO Nobuo Kishi, an aerospace engineer "who has held top posts at Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation," SkyDrive is aiming to launch its eVTOL product into the Japanese market by 2023. It's unclear exactly what that product will be – an aircraft, or a service? Either way, there's a battle ahead to get the thing through aviation certification and solve the safety challenges that face most multirotor designs when you start putting people in them. Mr. Kishi has plenty of prior experience with type certification, so he'll be aware of the rocky road ahead.

One safety solution SkyDrive has been working on with the Cartivator team is a pilot seat mounted on a crumple-capable column of shock-absorbing metal inspired by the impact-absorbing design on a popular Japanese running shoe. The "Mizuno Wave" system can do a certain amount to limit the lumbar spine shock of a direct vertical drop, but one wonders just how high up it'll be useful.

The "Mizuno Wave" impact-absorbing seat support, developed by Cartivator and SkyDrive, is inspired by a popular Japanese running shoe
The "Mizuno Wave" impact-absorbing seat support, developed by Cartivator and SkyDrive, is inspired by a popular Japanese running shoe

We might have greater confidence in SkyDrive if it showed itself capable of producing high-res photos instead of the heavily pixellated shots on the company website.

Source: SkyDrive via evtol.news

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15 comments
Towerman
Yes, make it to production ! I'm glad they are utilizing a 3 bladed machine, more blades more quiet (and good looks of course) i'm not much of a fan of the bulky aluminum arms, however if they are light enough i suppose i could live with it, the machine looks very practical to work on, that is definitely a plus. Now get those Hydrogen Fuel cells ready and let's wing this revolution into the air ! !
paul314
How much armor would you have to wear to survive if anything happened to one of those propellers?
guzmanchinky
How much more dangerous, really, is this than riding a motorcycle at high speed on a crowded Los Angeles freeway at night, and yet we allow that all the time. I think the control systems for drones have become SO reliable since the first ones that one of these machines, if flown carefully and not over populated areas (at first) would be a great start to the personal flight mobility revolution...
Tris
Since this new eVTOL is a prototype its absurdities can be understood like sitting inside a vegimatic. Just hang onto anything not doubly strapped down because this is an exciting open air, up in the air, crotch rocket. I know its only a prototype and soon will have a pod with rotors that stop when the door opens.,, oops,, let's add a hatch door lock, no-opening door for rotor stopping at height, but water landing doors would open in the air tight pod. There are always more possibilities in rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. The future of the air beaters and flame throwers will DEFINITELY be overtaken by; simple, clean, easy, cheap, quiet, sustainable flight as is maximally safe as can be. It will go everywhere anytime with no infrastructure cost so that all of planet Earth's doors connect. This is only possible with true Electric Propulsion using electrostatic fields vs fire and thousands of expensive wearing out dangerous parts. Loz, your readers may want to also know how this future has arrived negating the group think on ion propulsion. My partner patented the MFET transistor as his doctoral thesis. He sold it to Motorola after proving to the patent examiners that the text books were wrong on electrostatic fields back then. He also discovered the Atmospheric Ion Propulsion breakthrough that is very far beyond MITs recent 2% efficient ion wind 1st horizontal ‘lifter' flight. We had a top Electric Propulsion Lab that serves NASA in space prove my partner is correct after their initial skepticism to even look at it. They were simply amazed at it working in the air. It is also far better than working in space by having the ambient air mass to push with down here in our atmosphere. Clean air quiet jet engines will work. It only takes 1 sq meter of eVTOL jet exhaust area to lift 300 lbs vertically and that is with only 25% efficiency while our simulations show much higher efficiencies are possible. The future awaits.
Graeme S
Tris, your comments; He also discovered the Atmospheric Ion Propulsion breakthrough that is very far beyond MITs recent 2% efficient ion wind 1st horizontal ‘lifter' flight. They were simply amazed at it working in the air. It is also far better than working in space by having the ambient air mass to push with down here in our atmosphere. Clean air quiet jet engines will work. It only takes 1 sq meter of eVTOL jet exhaust area to lift 300 lbs vertically and that is with only 25% efficiency while our simulations show much higher efficiencies are possible. The future awaits. I am part of that Future, please tell me more.
Towerman
@ Tris Interesting stuff, coming down to practical use my questions will be 1: how complicated is the engine. 2: What is the power to weight ratio compared to electric motors ? Propulsion requirement ? 3: Electric motors are known for their great power to weight and size ratio, and economic pricing, how does the atmospheric ion engine compare. i almost feel like comparing an electric motor to a solid state systems as there is so little rotating parts. And reliability is extremely good. Nothing to date can beat the electric motor in terms of size to power ratio, weight and reliability as well as affordability.
Tris
S.Graeme & Towerman, We will be adding more information soon as i defer to my CTO partner when it gets into specific technology. He is busy working on some tech issues at this time. In the mean time you can check out are Corporate website www.charged-motion.com and we welcome comments on that website but for now send questions here after browsing the site.
Tris
Towerman, You are so right about electric motors that is why a Tesla and electric cars can accelerate faster than most 1,000 horsepower internal combustion engines. It is also why we have diesel electric locomotives. But in the air, how do you convert that power into thrust. There is only one way we know of now and that is some form of propeller or fan. In all the eVTOL designs we have seen you end up with a decapitator or a knee-capper. An abstract of an article in Aviation Space Environmental Medicine states, "Rotor blade injuries are an inherent hazard of helicopter operations. Crash-related injuries were not included. During the study period, there were 24 blade strike injuries (12 involving the main rotor), 11 (46%) of which were fatal. If "professional training alone does not guarantee protection from rotor blade injury," how could they ever be made safe enough where thousands of eVTOL vehicles could land in the middle of crowded civilizations. The other problem which is solvable with fuel cells is where do you get enough electricity. All the battery powered aircraft have a range of around 50 miles. If Tesla is having trouble selling cars with a 325 mile range, the market for a 50 mile range vehicle with the same recharge characteristics will be even smaller. Answer to Graeme, There is a massive amount of information available on our website and here are some videos prepared by us now on Youtube that may be of interest to you. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL39zpVaxj5Z6a3FhOyZEFFjv2hf9ktE5o If you would like to contact me personally or my chief technical officer you can send an e-mail to contact@charged-motion.com. Tris
EmmanuelGrayton
@Tris This sounds like an interesting piece of engineering. Who is your CTO? What was the name of the propulsion lab that tested your ion propulsion design? Do you have a prototype?
Tris
Emmanuel, All the information you seek is on our website [above] plus much more but that lab is under NDA for now. Soon we plan to publish a series of articles for public consumption which will identify that lab. I will also use this post here to note our crowdfunding campaign shown in some videos [above] is now closed due to that site's administrators having "ion wind group unthink" so they did not publish our project. The few donors we sent there. Even our search key words failed to locate our project consequently no donations, but still is there showing a gallery, a story and all the videos on youtube. To see it search "The I-Jet Future indiegogo". You can skip over any redundancy if you look at it all.