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Flying car inches closer to reality

NEC’s ‘flying car’ takes flight for the first time. Source: Yuri Kageyama.

Japanese technology firm NEC Corporation’s ‘flying car’ prototype took to the skies in Tokyo earlier this week.

Conducted in an enclosure for safety, the drone-like vehicle soared three metres above the ground for the demonstration, which was attended by journalists and investors.

Looking more like an enlarged drone rather than a functional road-going vehicle, the ‘flying car’ sports four rotors for vertical lift off, while the passenger cell looks to accommodate about three adults.

Part-funded by the Japanese government with the goal of bringing the technology to market in the next 12 years, the NEC vehicle joins compatriot Cartivator in the race to the first widely available flying car.

However, NEC is also a supporter of Cartivator, who have developed their own flying car project and will partner with Toyota at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to light the flame at the opening ceremony.

Cartivator’s developers are targeting a 50 and 100km/h top speed when in ground and flight modes respectively, while the vehicle will feature seating for two and a 50m flight altitude.

No details of NEC’s vehicle have been disclosed.

Other flying car projects include Uber Air, which was announced last year to begin trials in Melbourne, Dallas and Los Angeles as early as 2020.

Vehicle requirements for the Uber Air project include a 150mph (242km/h) cruise speed, around 100km of range with reserve energy to spare and be able to operate continuously for three hours while flying 25 mile (40km) missions.

Six vehicle partners have been announced for Uber Air – Aurora Flight Sciences, Bell, EmbraerX, Karem Aircraft, Pipistrel Vertical Solutions and Jaunt Air Mobility.

Do you think flying cars are the future of inner-city transport? Tell us what you think in the comments below.