NEC "flying car"

NEC Corp.’s machine hovers at the company’s facility in Abiko, Japan, on Monday. The test flight took place in a gigantic cage.

ABIKO, Japan (AP) — Japanese electronics maker NEC Corp. on Monday showed a “flying car,” a large dronelike machine with four propellers that hovered steadily for about a minute.

The test flight reaching 10 feet high was held in a gigantic cage, as a safety precaution, at an NEC facility in a Tokyo suburb. The preparations, such as the 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 endeavors is a test course for flying cars that’s built in an area devastated by the 2011 tsunami, quake and nuclear disasters in Fukushima in northeastern Japan. Mie, a prefecture in central Japan that’s often used as a resort by Hollywood celebrities, also hopes to use flying cars to connect its islands.

Similar projects are popping up around world, such as Uber Air of the U.S.

A flying car by Japanese startup Cartivator crashed quickly in a 2017 demonstration. Cartivator Chief Executive Tomohiro Fukuzawa, who was at Monday’s demonstration, said its machines were also flying longer lately.

NEC is among the more than 80 sponsor companies for Cartivator’s flying car, which also include Toyota Motor Corp. group companies and video game company Bandai Namco Holdings.

The goal is to deliver a seamless transition from driving to flight like the world of “Back to the Future,” although huge hurdles remain, including battery life, the need for regulations and safety concerns.

NEC officials said their flying car was designed for unmanned flights for deliveries but utilized the company’s technology in its other operations such as space travel and cybersecurity.

Often called EVtol, for “electric vertical takeoff and landing” aircraft, a flying car is defined as an aircraft that’s electric, or hybrid electric, with driverless capabilities, that can land and takeoff vertically.

All of the flying car concepts, which are like drones big enough to hold humans, promise to be better than helicopters. Helicopters are expensive to maintain and noisy to fly, and they require trained pilots. Flying cars also are being touted as useful for disaster relief.

U.S. ride-hailing and transportation network Uber is planning demonstrator flights in 2020 and commercial operations in 2023, and has chosen Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne as the first cities to offer what it calls Uber Air flights.

© 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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