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Flying taxis set to take off on 8 routes at Osaka World Expo

20 flights per hour planned for 2025 event in Japan debut

Flying-taxi operators for the Osaka World Expo will be selected as soon as fiscal 2022. German startup Volocopter is among those looking to start service in Japan with a local partner. (Photo courtesy of Volocopter)

OSAKA -- The 2025 Osaka World Expo looks to establish flying-taxi routes connecting to eight possible destinations, with roughly 20 flights per hour.

The flying cars would connect Yumeshima -- Osaka's artificial island and the site of the World Expo -- to airports and other locations in and around Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto. Officials see the project as Japan's first flying-taxi network for transporting passengers.

The draft plan will be presented by government officials during a meeting with the private sector Friday. A working group led by the Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has been exploring the proposal since this fiscal year.

Manufacturers and other operators will be selected as soon as fiscal 2022. Contracts will be awarded to multiple candidates in vehicle development and operation.

The project will also select candidates who will manage takeoff and landing grounds. Routes and fares will be determined after talks between operators and the association.

Possible destinations in Osaka include the city; the Osaka Bay area; Osaka International Airport, or Itami Airport; and Kansai International Airport. Destinations in Kobe include the city and Kobe Airport.

Other potential locations are Awaji Island near Kobe and the region surrounding Kyoto and Ise-Shima. Direct flights and scenic routes will be on the table.

Flying cars have generated buzz as a possibility for next-generation transportation. ANA Holdings has signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S. startup Joby Aviation to explore a launch of services in Japan. Toyota Motor is an investor in Joby.

Japan Airlines has joined forces with German startup Volocopter to start their own service. Tokyo venture SkyDrive is developing flying vehicles.

Regulation will be a must for commercializing flying cars. Air traffic will have to be managed in skies shared with planes, helicopters and drones in the area, for example. Standards for airfield construction will need to be set.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism plans to develop the regulatory framework by fiscal 2023 or fiscal 2024. The idea is to use the World Expo to show the viability of flying cars.

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