A Japanese startup called SkyDrive Inc. has begun conducting test flights of their prototype flying car with a human pilot.
The company hopes to be able to make a full public demonstration of the vehicle later this summer.
The test flights are being conducted at a protected indoor facility at the company’s research flight center outside of Nagoya.
There have been a number of previous test flights, but they were all conducted via remote control and no human pilot on-board.
According to a report in The Asahi Shimbun, SkyDrive says the car could be ready for a limited retail release as early as 2023, and mass production by 2026.
SkyDrive was founded by former engineers from Toyota and they intend their vehicle to be ‘the world’s smallest flying car.”
In 2017, Toyota gave the company an infusion of around $350,000 to help develop flying vehicles.
The company said it won’t say more about how the test flights have been proceeding so far, but says things are going well enough to continue making them.
While concept renders of the flying car present a glossy and slim cabin with four horizontal drone-style propellers at each corner, the testing vehicle looks more like a go kart.
The prototype is around five feet tall thanks to the roll bar and a little less than 12 feet long and 12 feet wide.
The company hopes the flying vehicles could help ease traffic congestion, especially in busy megalopolises like Tokyo.
SkyDrive also believe flying vehicles could be helpful in search and rescue missions, and during emergencies where conventional infrastructure becomes unusable.
The company is targeting top speeds of 62mph while in the air and 93mph while closer to the ground.
The company says the vehicle will be able to travel as low as three feet off the ground.