NEC (the Japanese company, not the South African political committee) is a name you might not be familiar with. Unless you do a fair bit of business in the sort of information technology that involves paying someone a large amount of cash-money to keep your IT systems up and running, that is. But you might hear more about the Japanese multinational, if the successful test of its new passenger drone is any indication.
The passenger drone executed a very brief tethered flight in Japan earlier this week. It’s not a particularly exciting demo of the tech — mostly we’re looking at an oversized quad-copter lifting off for a few seconds before making it back to terra firma. But hey, it didn’t flip or crash into the safety cage so we’re counting that as a win. Even Elon Musk’s rockets started out making short hops, after all.
NEC Corp’s Kouji Okada, speaking to Bloomberg, said “Japan is a densely populated country and that means flying cars could greatly alleviate the burden on road traffic. We are positioning ourselves as an enabler for air mobility, providing location data and building communications infrastructure for flying cars.”
Japan is set to begin drone deliveries by 2023. NEC’s partner company Cartivator hopes to get these larger drones off the ground (sorry, sorry…) by 2026. The eventual plan is to transport passengers but, of course, there are a number of obstacles to overcome. Lifting the 150kg drone, along with passengers and cargo, while remaining a safe proposition, will take some doing. We’re not expecting to see any giant leaps but a number of smaller hops could take passenger drones a long way by 2026.