Japanese eVTOL aircraft developer SkyDrive this week said it will enter the U.S. market through joint work with multiple partners in South Carolina to develop uses for its vehicles. The company, which announced the plans during the Vertical Flight Society’s eVTOL Symposium in Mesa, Arizona, will set up a team in Beaufort County to work with local and state officials.
Development efforts for early applications with SkyDrive’s two-seat SD-05 aircraft will hinge on air taxi operations serving multiple local communities. The management teams from Columbia Metropolitan Airport and Greenville Downtown Airport are involved in the project.
Columbia has around 26 daily commercial airline flights, while Greenville is a general aviation facility. Also in the area is the upscale community of Hilton Head Island.
SkyDrive says it aims to achieve FAA type certification for the SD-05 model that it unveiled in September 2022. First, it is working to get approval from Japan’s air safety regulator in time to start air taxi services during the World Expo 2025 event in Osaka. It is also seeking early sales commitments in Asian markets, including Vietnam.
According to the Japanese start-up, which last year raised 9.6 billion yen ($66.7 million) in a Series C funding round, the all-electric vehicle is intended for flights of up to just 10 kilometers (six miles). The projected range is far less than that of most other in-development eVTOL aircraft, which are generally expected to be able to fly sectors of between around 35 and 160 kilometers (22 to 100 miles).
The design features 12 motor-propeller units installed in the corners of the upper airframe. SkyDrive’s program partners include cabin interior specialist Jamco, composite materials group Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Plastics, and battery manufacturer Electric Power Systems.
Initially, SkyDrive plans to manufacture the SD-05 in Japan, but it indicated that it would consider opening a U.S. production line if local sales increase. The company plans to engage with prospective operators in the South Carolina area but has not yet established a timeline for when services might begin.
“The decision to make South Carolina our home base and our window into the U.S. market was an easy one considering that it is a significant player in both the commercial and military aviation industries, and it is home to more than 400 aerospace and aviation companies, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin,” commented SkyDrive founder and CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa.
Beaufort County is on the border with Georgia, where business jet maker Gulfstream Aerospace is a major employer. Other local aviation companies include composites manufacturer Toray, which is a supplier to SkyDrive.