Working together to create an exciting future where “drones” and “flying cars” fly over the city.
An exciting industrial revolution in the sky; ENEOS’s dream is now beyond the sky.
For six years after joining ENEOS, Tokutomi Daijiro worked as a process engineer at the Kawasaki and Wakayama refineries, where he was involved in improving the petroleum refining processes. In April 2019, he was assigned to the Emerging Business Development Department, where he experienced, among other things, the founding of the department and investment in AI companies. He is currently in charge of creating businesses in the areas of drones and micromobility under the theme of smart city and mobility.
The “industrial revolution in the sky” by drones and flying cars is attracting global attention.
The two themes we are currently working on are “drones” and “flying cars.” Both of these technological fields are being actively studied and promoted for utilization around the world due to the clear potential of what is being referred to as the “industrial revolution of the sky.” In Japan, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) have taken the lead in creating a roadmap for widespread practical use, promotion, and social implementation of these technologies. The drone service market in Japan is expected to grow rapidly; according to a survey by Impress Research Institute, it is expected to exceed 350 billion yen by 2024.
First, I would like to talk about the definitions of drones and flying cars. A drone is a general term for an unmanned aircraft that can be flown by remote or automatic control. Drones are often seen as small, lightweight devices used for aerial photography, but larger models that can carry heavy objects are also being developed. Flying cars, on the other hand, are generally defined as “electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft,” with the abbreviation “eVTOL”.
Attractive market, high affinity with ENEOS. The keyword is “exciting.”
Why did we at ENEOS decide to enter the field of mobility in the sky instead of on the ground? For one thing, as mentioned above, it is an area with so much potential it has been called the “industrial revolution in the sky,” and as such, it is extremely appealing as an emerging market. The other reason is its high affinity with ENEOS. Since ENEOS has long been engaged in the business of supplying energy for mobility, we believe we have many pertinent assets that can be utilized in this area.
Lastly, I would like to share my personal thoughts regarding this area. I feel that the air mobility business best matches the compass, or guiding principle, I set when considering new businesses in the field of mobility (of which I am in charge), which is that it must be “appealing to the five senses, be both environmentally clean and exciting, and likely to become the standard for the next generation.”
The key word is “exciting.” In terms of more than simply business factors, we believed that by focusing on whether we can make things exciting, we would engender an improved ability to carry out new business developments. On our team, each individual has a high degree of freedom to pursue their particular interests and we foster a culture that encourages taking on challenges. In this sense, I believe that “exciting” is an important factor in determining the direction of the challenges we pursue.
ENEOS is responsible for infrastructure development and aims to implement air mobility in society.
Even if we tend to talk about drones and flying cars in a concise manner, each of them actually contains a variety of domain elements. For example, in the case of drones, domain elements range from materials, parts, drone airframe development, production technology, and software to services such as logistics, inspection, and agricultural services, not to mention pilot training, insurance, leasing and renting, take-off and landing infrastructure, and air traffic control. Among these elements, it is infrastructure development to which we at ENEOS believe we can contribute the most. The infrastructure for flying drones has not been sufficiently discussed and few companies in Japan are fully engaged in this area. We believe that we can make effective use of ENEOS’s assets, such as its knowledge of energy supply, its nationwide service station network, and the ENEOS brand.
To be more specific about our future vision, ENEOS would like to build air mobility stations where all kinds of drones and flying cars can take off and land. In addition to providing energy supply and maintenance services, we would also like to provide various drone services, such as inspection, security, and disaster response, from such stations. Our ultimate goal is to create a world in which “drones” and “flying cars” fly over cities as a matter of course, enriching people’s quality of life. We are convinced that infrastructure development is essential to realizing this goal and that it is primarily on us to contribute to it.
Sensyn Robotics for drones, a proven track record in plant inspections
To realize our air mobility station concept, we have already begun collaborating with two Japanese start-up companies. First, in June 2020, we formed a capital and business alliance with Sensyn Robotics. Sensyn Robotics is a company that develops software for drones, develops drone ports, and provides support services for business use of data obtained by drones, with an eye toward the complete automation of business operations using drones and other robotics. Already boasting a long track record in Japan, this company is particularly focused on the fields of inspection, security, and disaster countermeasures that contribute to solving social issues.
In fact, we have been collaborating with the company for a long time in the inspection of our oil refinery plants using drones. We were discussing the possibility of collaborating not only to strengthen our existing business in plant inspection, but also to develop a completely new business by constructing our air mobility stations. I remember our visions and goals for the future matching during our discussions, it is no surprise that our capital and business alliance has progressed smoothly.
SkyDrive for flying cars, leading the development of flying cars in Japan
In the field of flying cars, we have formed a capital and business alliance with SkyDrive in July 2020. SkyDrive is the only company in Japan that has conducted manned flight tests and is leading the development of flying cars in Japan. The core of this company’s efforts is on one- to two-seater aircraft that can be easily maneuvered. On the other hand, since flying cars are considered large aircraft, SkyDrive is also utilizing its know-how to develop large drones for transporting heavy objects.
SkyDrive and ourselves agreed that it is essential to develop an infrastructure that can take off, land, and supply energy for flying cars, so we formed a capital and business alliance. SkyDrive’s members are very passionate about the development of flying cars and drones, instilling confidence in me that we will create an exciting future together.
Looking to the Future
A world in which drones and flying cars fly as a matter of course in the not-too-distant future.
According to the roadmap prepared by Japan’s government, the Civil Aeronautics Act related to drones will be amended to allow flights beyond a visual line of sight in manned areas in 2022 and the flying car business will be launched in 2023, meaning these changes are soon to be upon us. To support the relaxation of these laws and regulations and to enable rapid business development after deregulation, we would like to actively conduct demonstration tests starting with drones. We are also planning to build stations that service not only vehicles in the sky, but that also integrate with other mobility systems running on the ground. We believe that by combining ground and air mobility, we can create even more attractive services.
To reiterate, our vision is to create “a world where drones and flying cars fly over the city as a matter of course, enriching people’s quality of life.” We hope to realize this exciting future together with various partners who share our vision.
Sensyn Robotics is a leading company in the field of social infrastructure DX whose mission is to “spur the evolution of what’s ‘commonplace’ in society using the power of robotics,” starting with the use of drones to solve problems faced by companies and society.
We help our customers perform safe and efficient operations by collecting data using the most appropriate method according to the target object and purpose, combining it with existing operational data and replacing dangerous and labor-intensive tasks such as inspection, security monitoring, and disaster response with IoT and robots. We are striving to provide services that simplify and automate all kinds of work by replacing dangerous tasks, such as work people used to do at extreme heights, with robots.
SkyDrive was founded in 2018 and is developing “flying cars” and “cargo drones” with the aim of commercializing flying cars and contributing to the mobility of the future. The flying car service is scheduled to start in FY2023, and the cargo drone has been on sale since May 2020. The company is a member of the Public-Private Council for Air Transportation Revolution and was selected as a J-Startup Tohoku company.