NEC Corp. unveiled Monday a prototype of an electric flying car as it seeks to offer its communications and control technologies to other companies amid the global boom to develop such airborne vehicles.
Starting with a roaring sound, the 148-kilogram helicopter-like prototype with a length of 3.9 meters, height of 1.3 meters and width of 3.7 meters came afloat by itself to 3 meters above ground and hovered for several minutes at a testing ground at NEC's Abiko plant in Chiba Prefecture.
Equipped with four propellers and unmanned, the prototype moved using NEC's software to control flight and determine its location. NEC officials said the company is not seeking to become a maker of flying cars but hopes to see its technology used in them from 2023, starting with the transportation of cargo.
"There will come an age where airspace will be used commonly for transportation. We will combine our technologies to create an innovation," said NEC Senior Executive Vice President Norihiko Ishiguro at a press conference.
NEC said it plans to provide its technology for flying the cars to engineers' group Cartivator, with which it signed a sponsorship agreement last year.
Cartivator, which is also supported by over 80 other companies including Panasonic Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., aims to start operation of a two-man flying car from 2023, conduct a demonstration flight during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, carry people at the Osaka Expo in 2025 and mass produce the vehicle in 2026.
The Japanese government is also pushing the development of flying cars in collaboration with private companies ranging from the logistics and automobile sectors, in an effort to catch up with global rivals, including Boeing Co., Airbus S.A.S. and U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc.
Flying vehicles are expected to be used for tourism, leisure activities, disaster relief, cargo transportation and easing of traffic congestion, but ensuring safety remains a key challenge amid the lack of standards and rules.
Under the road map compiled by the government, it aims to build prototype electric flying cars and conduct test flights this year and put the technology into practical use from 2023 onward. By the 2030s, they are envisioned to be used in urban transportation.