SkyDrive to manufacture eVTOLs in cooperation with Suzuki
Japanese electric air taxi developer SkyDrive has signed an agreement in principle with Suzuki to build eVTOLs. Specifically, a Suzuki Group production facility in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture will be used to build SkyDrive’s electric aerial taxi VTOL starting in the spring.
The e-air taxi, which will also be called SkyDrive, is a further development of the previous two-seater model SD-05. It is larger and now offers three seats, one for the pilot and two for passengers. SkyDrive aims to obtain airworthiness certification in 2025 to deploy the eVTOL at Expo 2025 in Osaka, followed by type certification in 2026 to begin mass production and delivery. SkyDrive is also working towards type certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin operations in the US.
SkyDrive will work closely with Suzuki to manufacture the three-seat air taxi. SkyDrive announces it will establish a wholly-owned subsidiary that will “share the aforementioned Japanese manufacturing facility with Suzuki and begin construction of the SkyDrive eVTOL aircraft by spring 2024”. Suzuki is also to be involved in other manufacturing-related activities, it says. More details would be agreed in ongoing talks.
Three years ago, SkyDrive already completed a public manned flight test with its single-seat predecessor SD-03. In September 2022, SkyDrive unveiled the design of the two-seater SD-05 model for the first time, which was designed for flights of up to about ten kilometres and speeds of up to 100 km/h. At that time, the Japanese company had already expressed its intention to launch the SD-05. Even then, however, the Japanese developer said that the design and specifications were not yet final. Now it is clear: the SD-05 will have three seats and be renamed SkyDrive. The range is to increase to 15 kilometres, whereby the 100 km/h speed limit will also apply to the new model.
Furthermore, both horizontal and vertical tailplanes are to provide stability in flight. Twelve motor-propeller units will also provide lift and propulsion in the further developed model, whereby the Japanese say they are using a “unique rotor dome design” they developed themselves. What has changed, apart from the dimensions of the air taxi, is the maximum take-off weight – from 1.1 to 1.4 tonnes.
With a view to developing and manufacturing the battery system for the eVTOL, SkyDrive had chosen Electric Power Systems as its technology partner in the summer of 2022. The US supplier has numerous battery systems “that are currently being used in demonstration devices”, it said at the time. EP Systems is already working with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to certify batteries for general aviation aircraft. The company is aiming for its first TSO (Technical Standard Order) this year.
SkyDrive is headquartered in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, and defines itself as a developer and manufacturer of flying cars and cargo drones. In late summer 2022, the company had opened a branch outside Japan for the first time – in the US.
For SkyDrive CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa, the cooperation with Suzuki is a big step in the development of his company: “At Suzuki, all manufacturing activities are based on a concept, ‘Smaller, Fewer, Lighter, Shorter, and Neater’ and SkyDrive is developing lightweight air mobilities. Suzuki and SkyDrive have been collaborating since March 2022 and we are very excited that SkyDrive will utilize the production facility of Suzuki to build our eVTOL ‘SKYDRIVE.’ In our pursuit to consistently manufacture safe and high-quality aircraft for the world, we are grateful for the valuable know-how we will learn from Suzuki, a global leader in automobile mass production.”
Toshihiro Suzuki, President of Suzuki Motor Corporation, added, “I’m very excited to be working together with SkyDrive. We will make ambitious strides toward the development of products of superior value, so that we can contribute to the realization of air mobility, which utilizes the sky for daily transportation.”