Advanced Air Mobility Market Intelligence

The Race to The World Expo in Osaka is on

The Race to The World Expo in Osaka is on

Like a scene taken straight out of one of the Fast and Furious films where every car is neck and neck in an adrenaline-pumping final dash to the finish line that determines the winner, the same picture can be painted about the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft industry in Japan. A growing number of players have decided to venture into the market as it is brimming with potential and there is a clear acceptance of the evolutionary concept of electric aircraft and the accompanying infrastructure that could revolutionize air travel as we know it.

Unlike the movies, the finish line is the World Expo 2025 in Osaka, which represents the proverbial checkered flag. With time running out, the competition within the eVTOL space is heating up as the various manufacturers invested in the Japanese market are rounding the final turn and approaching the finish line, each vying to be crowned the first to launch commercial operations in Japan. The competition has been fierce, with advancements in technology, infrastructure, and regulations happening at breakneck pace.

With the checkered flag in sight, it is time to buckle up and enjoy the ride as the past 12 months have been nothing short of a whirlwind of activity. The emergence of key players, ever-changing industry developments, and the speedbumps that lie ahead have set the scene for a tense race to air travel stardom.

Land of the Rising Sun

Not only is this moniker Japan’s alter ego but it also perfectly portrays the vast opportunities waiting to be seized. Japan has fast become one of the instrumental markets in the eVTOL and advanced air mobility (AAM) industries as the country has put all the pieces of the complex jigsaw in place to allow electric aircraft to positively thrive. It is this commitment that serves as a testament to Japan’s pledge to adopt sustainable vehicles, build the required infrastructure, and certificate electric aircraft through its Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB).

The World Expo in 2025 is the target for many of the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) but the possibilities extend far beyond that as air taxi services within major cities and to and from airports are on the radar. Shuttle services within resort facilities and sightseeing tours have also been outlined as potential areas where eVTOLs can flourish commercially.

Volocopter, the German eVTOL manufacturer, perfectly summed up the true potential of Japan, telling Asian Sky Group the nation was “one of the first countries to nationally adopt the concept of urban air mobility and created a roadmap to implement this new mobility mode from 2025 onwards.”

Who are the Players?

Over the past year, the race to take to the skies in Japan has been heating up significantly. An increasing number of OEMs have thrown their hats into the ring, signaling the start of an intense battle for market supremacy.

Below are a few of the major OEMs that have been making big moves to ensure they are primed for take off once the World Expo 2025 arrives.


The big fish in the local pond, SkyDrive has been going from strength to strength in the 12 months that have passed. Partnerships were forged with Toray Carbon Magic and Electric Power Systems regarding the SD-05 eVTOL’s composite structure and battery system respectively. SkyDrive is also making great headway in its bid to obtain certification from JCAB. Financially speaking, the company is in a healthy position, having raised in excess of 15 billion Yen (USD$110 million) as of April 6, 2023. Orders have also been piling in since November last year, with Vietnam’s Pacific Group pre-ordering up to 100 electric aircraft. Taiho has also placed a pre-order for SD05s, while SkyDrive is also accepting pre-orders from individuals that want to soar through the skies in their very own eVTOL.

Tomohiro Fukuzawa, SkyDrive’s CEO, has grand plans laid out for the company, starting with unveiling the commercial model of the SD-05 at the 2025 World Expo in Osaka. From there, SkyDrive aims to venture beyond the boundaries of Japan and take its business to a global level.

“Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) is included in the master plan for Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan, and in February 2023, we were selected as a company to participate in the Advanced Air Mobility ‘Smart Mobility Expo’ project,” Fukuzawa said. “We aim to unveil the SD-05 commercial model at the event in Japan and expand the business overseas.”


A German-based company with plans to revolutionize air travel with its VoloCity air taxi, Volocopter has been laying the foundations for successful lift-off in Japan. Following the announcement of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and JCAB concurrent certification in March, Volocopter is working closely with both bodies to initiate technical discussions pertaining to certificating the Volocity so that it can start operating in Japanese airspace by 2025.

Volocopter has raised plenty of capital from numerous parties, including Sumitomo Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, and Japan Airlines (JAL). The Bruchsal-based firm is also working with an environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) group in Tokyo to conduct a feasibility study on air taxis for smart city use.

In the lead-up to the 2025 World Expo, Volocopter plans to work closely with JAL regarding routes and permits. Flight regulations and local authority discussions will also begin in the near future.

“We also have support from strong partners and investors from Japan who share the vision of bringing UAM to Japan,” a Volocopter spokeswoman said. “The use cases for Volocopter’s family of aircraft (VoloCity, VoloRegion, VoloDrone) fit with our vision – densely populated megacities, urbanization, congestion, reducing emissions, remote area support, etc.”


Based in China, EHang has been spreading its wings and making its presence known in multiple countries worldwide, including Japan.

The past 12 months have borne a lot of fruit for the manufacturers of the EH216 eVTOL as in July 2022, it conducted the first above-sea aerial tourism flight demonstrations in Japan in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture. EHang also successfully completed Japan’s first point-topoint aerial commute flight demonstration in Oita City, Oita Prefecture.

EHang has also dabbled in autonomous flight, flying an aircraft with the support of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLTI) and other partners. This marked “Japan’s first manned autonomous eVTOL flight,” Xin Fang, EHang’s Chief Operating Officer, said.

Orders-wise, the Guangzhou-based firm received an order for 50 EH216 eVTOLs from AirX – further growing its presence in Japan.


Wisk is the curve ball that few saw coming this early as its prominent difference from the other OEMs is that its eVTOLs will operate autonomously. In May, the Mountain View, California firm signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with JAL to introduce its eVTOLs in Japanese cities. Under the agreement, the two parties will work together with JCAB and other government agencies in Japan regarding type certification, demonstration flights, and ultimately, the implementation of autonomous aircraft.

“From our perspective, a local partner like Japan Airlines is critical to future success in this important market,” a Wisk spokesperson said.

The Infrastructure Progress

Japan’s all-in approach extends beyond eVTOLs as the country knows that without the required infrastructure in place, all the electric aircraft preparing for take-off will remain grounded indefinitely.

To ensure a turbulent-free journey, the Public-Private Committee for Advanced Air Mobility was established in 2018 to focus on establishing vertiports and other types of infrastructure that will play an instrumental role in the daily operations of eVTOLs.

A number of key players have also risen to the challenge of creating a fully-functioning ecosystem that will serve as the lifeblood of Japan’s vision of becoming a leader in the eVTOL market not just in Asia, but potentially around the world.


One of the spearheads when it comes to the development of AAM infrastructure, Skyports has been highly active in Japan over the past year. In 2022, the company secured projects in Tokyo and Osaka, whereby it will conduct a series of assessments to pave the way for the successful integration of vertiports and AAM technology. Skyports aims to kickstart commercial operations around 2025, which means it would have hit the ground running prior to the commencement of the World Expo.

Japan’s AAM-enabled future is imminent and bright.”

A 2022 study by Roland-Berger and Rolls-Royce predicted that the Asia-Pacific region will lead the global AAM market, with Japan as the top market in terms of volume of VTOL aircraft,” Atsushi Okada, Japan Country Manager, Skyports, said.

“Skyports recognized the strong potential for AAM deployment in Japan and began our work in the country in 2020 when we signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kanematsu Corporation. Our decision was driven by three compelling applications in the context of Japan: intracity connectivity, urban to rural connectivity, and disaster relief missions.

“Skyports is committed to ensuring that the necessary vertiport infrastructure is in place as all parts of the ecosystem move ahead.”


EHang has a lot of skin in the game not just from an OEM standpoint, but as an investor in AAM infrastructure. Over the past couple of years, EHang has partnered with the Japanese aerospace research institution MASC and air mobility digital platform AirX to develop the necessary infrastructure required for a fully-functioning AAM ecosystem.

In April 2023, the Chinese electric aircraft developer was inducted as a member of Japan’s Public-Private Committee for AAM. As the only autonomous eVTOL OEM among the 56 members on the committee, EHang will have a pivotal role to play in helping lay the groundwork for the introduction of a safe and reliable AAM network that will subsequently result in the seamless integration of eVTOLs in Japan.

Xin Fang, EHang’s COO, acknowledged how important Japan’s position is as a future eVTOL and AAM hub, pointing out the unwavering commitment and dedication shown by all parties involved. Considering the vast amount of investment put in, Xin knows that EHang can play a leading role in bringing a more sustainable means of air travel to the technologically-advanced nation and its citizens.

“We devoted ourselves to promoting safe, autonomous, eco-friendly air traffic solutions worldwide. We also hope to take this opportunity to implement EHang’s urban air mobility solutions in Japan and assist Japan in establishing an ecosystem for Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) to allow passenger-grade, safe, autonomous, eco-friendly aerial vehicles to benefit the general public,” he said.

The Certification Campaign

Obtaining certification from JCAB will be a long, arduous hard-fought campaign that requires OEMs to show plenty of grit, determination, persistence, and an almost sensei level of deftness. The hurdles that have to be cleared will grow in stature and require immense amounts of funding, representing a whole different battle that needs to be won.

Nonetheless, despite the road to certification being filled with potential pitfalls, plenty of eVTOL manufacturers have made steady progress over the past 12 months. SkyDrive, Joby, Volocopter, Vertical Aerospace, and Wisk are just a few of the OEMs that have already plotted their flight paths to landing certification. That said, whether all the companies are able to accomplish this by 2025 is the billion-dollar question.

It is not just a case of submitting the required paperwork and getting approval. Flight tests, multiple checks and adjustments, and an eye-watering amount of funding are needed to earn the right to fly electric aircraft in Japanese airspace. From there, the next hoop to jump through is establishing a dedicated flight path, which the Japanese authorities have to set up.

All in all, it looks as if many eVTOL manufacturers face a long road ahead that will test their mettle and finances too. It is safe to say they will need deep pockets if they are to get through the certification tests and move on to the next stage of operations.

A Breakneck Battle to the Finish

The possibility of eVTOLs soaring above cities was once a scene straight out of The Jetsons, but it is now on the verge of coming to fruition in Japan in a couple of years. In fact, the country could well and truly become a mecca for electric aircraft and AAM, both in Asia and globally. However, the one perennial question that continues to linger in everyone’s mind is, which of the OEMs will cruise across the finish line and stand atop the podium as the inaugural eVTOL operator in the Land of the Rising Sun and the 2025 World Expo in Osaka. It is cliché to say, but only time will tell.