NEC’s Passenger Drone Demo
Drone enthusiasts in Japan need not expect to hitch a ride in the machine anytime soon ye- it’s a long way away.
Japan is eagerly looking forward to becoming a leader in the passenger drone industry. A recent demonstration by NEC Corp which involved a people-carrying quadcopter that remained airborne for about a minute nudged the nation a step closer to that goal. The company operated the flight in Abiko, a Tokyo suburb and was carried out inside a safety cage at a test facility.
According to reports from Bloomberg the battery-powered drone did not in reality have a passenger inside it while it rose to a height of about 10 feet for a few moments before returning to the ground. This was the first demonstration of such a vehicle by a major Japanese corporation. Mass production of this quadcopter will be started by the company’s partner Cartivator in 2026.
Speaking to Bloomberg Kouji Okada, who is among the project leads at NEC said, “Japan is a densely populated country and that means flying cars could greatly alleviate the burden on road due to heavy traffic. We are positioning ourselves as an enabler for air mobility, providing location data and building communications infrastructure for flying cars.” This is just the beginning though- NEC’s machine weighed about 150 kilograms, and was approximately 3.9 meters long, 3.7 meters wide and 1.3 meters tall. Additional weight of some humans will make a considerable mass to be kept in the air safely, for any length of time. There’s a long way to go yet especially with battery life, regulatory and safety hurdles to overcome.
NEC isn’t the only company involved in building autonomous flying vehicles. The United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Singapore are hoping to shake up the drone industry, meanwhile private companies like Uber, Volvo’s parent company and Google co-founder Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk are working on such machines too.
Owing to the Japan governments support NEC and Cartivator however might hold an advantage over rival businesses. Leading the way Cartivator has already secured a permit for outdoor flights.
Under Japan’s infrastructure plan, deliveries made by such drones are scheduled to start around 2023. The government hopes to allow people to travel in the machines in the following decade. Venture capitalists in Japan meanwhile are investing in autonomous aircraft companies through their Drone Fund.
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