As one of the world’s most densely populated countries, Japan takes flying cars seriously. And having missed taking the lead on electric cars and ride-hailing services, the government is urging Japanese companies to pioneer electrical flying cars. 

At least one company has taken the challenge and produced results. NEC Corp. and its partner, aviation startup Cartivator, got their flying car off the ground for a minute.

NEC joins Uber Air and Kitty Hawk Corp.’s Flight, along with Dubai, Singapore, and New Zealand in competing to develop a workable flying car. NEC hopes to have its car ready by 2026.

Japan’s government has taken steps to support the industry. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is seeking $40.4 million to support private-sector development of high-performance batteries, motors and other equipment for flying cars, Japan Times reported. The government is also building a test course for the cars in the Fukushima region devastated in 2011, the AP said.

  • “Flying cars could greatly alleviate the burden on road traffic,” Kouji Okada, a leader of the NEC project, said to Bloomberg. “We are positioning ourselves as an enabler for air mobility, providing location data and building communications infrastructure for flying cars.”
  • Japan is developing a flying-car hub with investments from venture capitalist firms like Drone Fund, which focuses on autonomous aircrafts.
  • “Compared to other countries, Japan already has many of the strengths we’ll need for flying cars,” Fumiaki Ebihara, deputy director of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in Japan, told Bloomberg last year. “Mass production, materials science, battery technologies, systems integration — we have all the ingredients. This is a big chance for us.” 
  • Karma Impact: As Cartivator and NEC look to gain outdoor flying permits from the Japanese government, Japan plans to both solve a national density issue and take the lead in the flying car race.