Flying car takes off in Japan - but when will we see the machines in the UK?

Rob Waugh
Contributor
The car hovered at a height of 10ft (NEC/PA)

Science-fiction became reality on Monday as Japanese electronics firm NEC showed off a flying car, which hovered steady for around a minute.

The drone-like machine flew on propellers at a height of up to 10ft - but could we see such machines in the UK?

Test flights have already been completed by Chinese company eHang in China, AeroMobil in Slovakia and Kitty Hawk in the US.

Experts have predicted that the flying car market could be worth up to $1 billion by 2030.

The biggest barrier to flying cars is regulation, especially in the UK where the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sets the rules.

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The CAA has said that any flying vehicle would be treated in exactly the same way as other light aircraft and it would be ‘many years’ before they could fly without a pilot.

The Japanese test flight of the large drone-like machine with four propellers reached as high as 10ft.

The event was held in a gigantic cage as a safety precaution at an NEC facility in the Tokyo suburb of Abiko.

Preparations including repeated checks on the machine and warnings to reporters to wear helmets took up more time than the two brief demonstrations.

The Japanese government is behind flying cars, with the goal of having people zipping around in them by the 2030s.

Among the government-backed endeavours is a huge test course for flying cars to be built in an area devastated by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disasters in Fukushima in north-eastern Japan.

Mie, a prefecture in central Japan frequently used as a resort area by Hollywood celebrities, also hopes to use flying cars to connect its various islands.

Terrafugia, an American company founded by six graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is working to sell ‘roadable’ aeroplanes, or street-legal aeroplanes that can convert between flying and driving modes in under a minute.

Drivers of The Transition will have to be qualified pilots, and take off using a runway; the craft will go on sale next year with a price which has been reported at around £230,000.

The Volocopter, which has already been tested successfully in Dubai and Las Vegas, is one such craft and uses a battery to power 18 rotors that fly at 250ft from the ground.