Close on the heels of its first public flight demonstration, the Japanese eVTOL developer SkyDrive announced it has raised ¥3.9 billion (approximately US$37 million) in Series B funding.
The 10 investors in this round include seven new investors — Development Bank of Japan, Itochu Corporation, ENEOS Innovation Partners, Obayashi Corporation, NEC Corporation, VeriServe Corporation, and Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing Company — as well as three Series A investors: ITOCHU Technology Ventures, Energy & Environment Investment, and STRIVE. Other existing shareholders include DRONE FUND and Z Corporation.
The Series B funding significantly increases SkyDrive’s total investment, which was estimated last October at US$18.5 million.
According to SkyDrive CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa, the new investment will allow the company to continue development of the SD-03 eVTOL that flew with a pilot in the public flight demonstration on Aug. 25.
“On the technological front, our management of flying car development will progress from the engineering verification phase to the airworthiness verification phase with the aim of achieving a high degree of perfection of the aircraft’s body,” he stated in a press release. “At the same time, on the business development front, we will collaborate with our partner companies to refine service design and establish the necessary infrastructure.”
Many of SkyDrive’s investors are specifically focused on urban air mobility, with Hiroyuki Tsubai of Itochu Corporation foreseeing “a more comfortable society where SkyDrive’s flying cars are crisscrossing the skies as a familiar means of transportation.” ENEOS Innovation Partners president Yasunori Yazaki said his group will concentrate on creating infrastructure and an energy supply system “to help create a sustainable new mobility service.”
However, SkyDrive will also continue to develop cargo drones that can be used to transport tools and materials on construction sites — which is a primary interest of Obayashi Corporation, a major Japanese construction company. According to Naoki Kajita, general manager of Obayashi’s technology division, “We decided to take part in the financing as we feel that SkyDrive’s urban air mobility is a viable solution with the potential of conserving manpower and improving efficiency in hauling supplies to and from construction sites.”
To date, SkyDrive has focused on deploying its cargo drones in mountainous areas that pose particular transportation challenges. Fukuzawa stated, “We expect to expand our cargo drone service to urban areas in 2022 and beyond and to that end we will vigorously step up our efforts to build safe and secure aircraft and create the necessary service network to support that expansion.”