An air taxi service set to feature at the 2025 World Exposition in Osaka was tested in a park in the western Japan city Tuesday, in what the prefectural government says is the first time in the country one of the craft has been piloted from the cockpit.
Japan plans for the "flying cars" to be among the expo's main attractions, with the vehicles expected to provide access to the event venue planned to be set up on an artificial island in Osaka Bay.
The test in Osaka Castle Park centered on services to be provided by trading firm Marubeni Corp., one of the five companies selected to operate the flying taxis. It used a U.S.-made, single-seater craft different to the vehicles expected to be deployed for the 184-day event in 2025.
In the test, the craft ascended straight up into the air, lifted by its multiple propellers about 10 seconds after activation. While hovering about 8 meters above ground, it moved backward, forward, left and right and span multiple times before landing.
The craft was flown by Masatoshi Kumagai, a licensed pilot and the founder and CEO of GMO Internet Group, Inc. which provides cybersecurity services for operation of flying cars and aerial drones.
Kumagai, who underwent training in the United States for the flight, said afterwards that it had felt "like using a games console."
"I think the issue now isn't the technology, but that the big challenges ahead are Japanese regulations and residents' feelings" about safety.
Flying cars planned for the exposition will carry two to five people each, and are intended to connect three parts of the venue on Yumeshima, an artificial island in Osaka.
Marubeni plans to operate five-seater aircraft created by British firm Vertical Aerospace Group Ltd. for the event, after it reserved delivery slots for 25 of the vehicles from the company in January.
Other firms with contracts to provide the services include All Nippon Airways Co. parent company ANA Holdings Inc., which will partner with U.S. startup Joby Aviation Inc. to operate its five-seat vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.
Japan Airlines Co. plans to lay on two-rider aircraft developed by German company Volocopter GmbH, and central Japan-based SkyDrive Inc. also intends to provide two-seater aircraft services with a vehicle of its own development.
The test was organized with support from the Osaka prefectural government to improve awareness of the flying cars ahead of the world exposition.
Prefectural authorities plan to quickly resolve issues around commercial viability by also subsidizing construction of ports for the craft, as well as further test flights.
With flights over residential areas expected to take place, the prefectural government is working to reduce noise pollution and convince locals of the crafts' safety.
While the test marked the country's first piloted flight for a flying taxi, successful outdoor tests of manned craft being controlled from the ground have previously taken place in southwestern Japan's Oita Prefecture and elsewhere, the Osaka prefectural government said.
The World Expo 2025 will run from April 13 to Oct. 13 under the theme of "Designing Future Society for Our Lives."
ANA, JAL, 3 others picked to operate flying taxis for 2025 World Expo