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eVTOL Aircraft Lab Opens in Japan
  • 03 Jan 2024 03:18 PM
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eVTOL Aircraft Lab Opens in Japan

By Dan Gettinger
Vertiflite, Jan/Feb 2024

In early November, an exhibition hall dedicated to electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft opened in Japan. The Mizushima Aero Space Cluster (MASC), an aeronautical association based in Japan’s southern Okayama prefecture, inaugurated the MASC Kurashiki eVTOL Techlab on Nov. 10. The opening was followed by several days of lectures and educational events.

The Center is the first of its kind in Japan and a landmark achievement for MASC and for Japan’s eVTOL industry. The building is comprised of two floors and includes an exhibition space for eVTOL aircraft, virtual reality experience corner, and seminar and conference rooms. The center is adjacent to the Kurashiki Historic Preservation District, one of the representative tourist destinations surrounding the Seto Inland Sea.

MASC’s Tech-lab aims to “provide a place for education to help realize the dreams of today’s children, who will live in the coming era of eVTOL dissemination,” said Kouichi Sukimoto, Chief of Kurashiki eVTOL Tech-lab and a VFS member, in a statement to Vertiflite.

It will also seek to “contribute to the new mobility industry that will become common after the Expo in 2025,” added Sukimoto. The 2025 World Expo, which will be held in the nearby city of Osaka, is expected to feature eVTOL aircraft flights and services.

Concurrent with the opening, SkyDrive announced that it had received a pre-order for its three-seat SD-05 eVTOL aircraft from MASC. SkyDrive, an eVTOL developer based in Toyotacity, Japan, will work with MASC to develop opportunities for commercial eVTOL services to the Setouchi Islands, a collection of islands in the Seto Inland Sea. The SD-05 will join MASC’s EHang EH216-S eVTOL aircraft, which the association acquired in 2021.

MASC intends to use the exhibition space and its eVTOL aircraft to increase awareness about the opportunities offered by vertical flight technologies, as well as to serve as a locus for local activities and education programs. In the past year, the association conducted a series of demonstration flights and public displays of its EH216-S aircraft (see “VFS in Japan,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2023).

The association seeks to revive the aviation industry that once existed in Okayama prefecture prior to the Second World War. By investing in eVTOL aircraft technology, MASC is working to attract new businesses and tourism to the region, particularly to the remote island communities located in the Seto Inland Sea. Initially formed in 2017 as a study group, MASC incorporated as an association in 2021.

With the MASC Kurashiki eVTOL Tech-lab now open to the public and its growing fleet of eVTOL aircraft, MASC has positioned Okayama prefecture as a focal point of eVTOL aircraft operations in Japan. Considering its proximity to Osaka and the 2025 World Expo, one should expect to see this activity rise in the near future.

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