Japanese IT and networking company NEC has unveiled an electric flying car prototype, presenting the study as a testbed vehicle for its communications and control technologies that can be used in the development of airborne vehicles, Kyodo News reports.

The NEC prototype made a short unmanned test flight at the company’s Abiko plant in Chiba prefecture, hovering at a height of three metres within a control cage for a couple of minutes. The air mobility vehicle, which measures in at 3.9 metres long, 3.7 metres wide and 1.3 metres tall, is equipped with four propellers and weighs 148 kg.

Unlike many companies looking to get into the flying car segment, NEC says that it is not seeking to become a maker of flying cars, but is rather looking to get its technology in them from next decade, starting with the transportation of cargo. For example, the prototype utilises NEC’s software to control flight and determine its location.

It stated its plans to provide its technology for flying the cars to engineering group Cartivator, with which it signed a sponsorship agreement last year. Cartivator is also supported by over 80 other companies including Toyota and Panasonic, and aims to start operation of a two-man flying car from 2023, carry people at the Osaka Expo in 2025 and mass produce the vehicle in 2026.

The Japanese government is also pushing the development of flying cars in collaboration with private companies ranging from the logistics and automobile sectors, in an effort to catch up with global competitors. It aims to build prototype electric flying cars and conduct test flights this year and put the technology into practical use from 2023 onward.

The aim is to ultimately have them commonly in use by the 2030s, serving a multitude of tasks from commuter travel and cargo transportation to applications in tourism and disaster relief, but ensuring safety remains a key challenge amid the lack of standards and rules, the report adds.

Malaysia is also working on its own flying car, with a prototype expected to be ready by the end of the year. The Vector, as the vehicle is known as, is currently being developed by Aerodyne Group in collaboration with a Japanese partner, the project adopting a technology-sharing approach to better manage costs and speed up development time. The government is also mulling over a testbed facility for flying cars being set up in Cyberjaya.