Osaka Expo 2025: “The eVTOL Runners and Riders” broke the news on Tues­day (March 14th) that U.S com­pa­ny Lift had tri­alled its sin­gle-seater Hexa eVTOL over a park in Osa­ka City described as “The first time in Japan an eVTOL has been pilot­ed from the cock­pit.”

The web­site states this test in Osa­ka Cas­tle Park had been over­seen by Marubeni, one of the five com­pa­nies select­ed to oper­ate fly­ing taxis at the Osa­ka Expo in 2025. The test was organ­ised with sup­port from the Osa­ka Pre­fec­tur­al Gov­ern­ment “to improve aware­ness of eVTOLs ahead of the World Expo.”

“Dur­ing the tri­al”, the web­site explains, “The craft ascend­ed straight up into the air, lift­ed by its mul­ti­ple pro­pellers. It hov­ered about eight metres above ground, while mov­ing back­ward, for­ward, left and right and then spun around mul­ti­ple times before land­ing.”

The Hexa was flown by Masatoshi Kuma­gai, a licensed pilot and Founder/CEO of GMO Inter­net Group, a com­pa­ny which pro­vides cyber­se­cu­ri­ty ser­vices for oper­a­tion of eVTOLs and drones.

Kuma­gai, who under­went train­ing in the Unit­ed States for the flight, said after­wards that it had felt “like using a games con­sole.” He added, “I think the issue now isn’t the tech­nol­o­gy, but Japan­ese air reg­u­la­tions and res­i­dents’ feel­ings about safe­ty.”

Hexa In Flight (cred­it: GMO Inter­net Group)

The web­site hints that Lift’s Hexa may fly at the Osa­ka Expo in 2025 along­side those eVTOL com­pa­nies already cho­sen. These are:-

: Marubeni is part­ner­ing with UK Ver­ti­cal Aero­space.

: All Nip­pon Air­ways (ANA) with U.S Joby Avi­a­tion.

: Japan Air­lines is col­lab­o­rat­ing with Ger­man-based Volo­copter.

: Japan-based Sky­Drive will have a major pres­ence.

: UK’s Sky­ports has been cho­sen to assist in set­ting up the required infra­struc­ture for these air­craft.

There­fore, what the lat­est Hexa news sug­gests is that oth­er eVTOLs, per­haps a fair num­ber, as well as an expect­ed range of dif­fer­ent deliv­ery and car­go drones, could be on show at the Osa­ka Expo. The ques­tion being: Which ones will be fly­ing and trans­port­ing peo­ple to and from the Expo and what oth­ers might be on dis­play only.

Ver­ti­cal Aero­space VX4 Fly­ing over Osa­ka? (cred­it: Ver­ti­cal Aero­space)

Quick Facts About Osa­ka Expo

: The third time Osa­ka has host­ed an Expo (1970, 1990).

: The venue is locat­ed on the man-made arti­fi­cial Yumeshi­ma Island and Kono­hana-Ku (one of the 24 wards of Osa­ka).

: The event will last six months from April 13th to Octo­ber 13th, 2025.

: Close to 30 mil­lion peo­ple are expect­ed to attend with 3.5 mil­lion com­ing from over­seas + addi­tion­al bil­lions of vir­tu­al vis­i­tors par­tic­i­pat­ing online.

: Up to 150 dif­fer­ent coun­tries and regions will par­tic­i­pate cre­at­ing at least 142 dif­fer­ent pavil­ions as well as six Inter­na­tion­al Organ­i­sa­tions in atten­dance includ­ing the EU and Unit­ed Nations.

: The pri­ma­ry theme is “Design­ing Future Soci­ety for Our Lives” with sub-ones “Sav­ing Lives”, “Empow­er­ing Lives” and “Con­nect­ing Lives”.

: The Expo aims to pro­mote the glob­al pur­suit of health, longevi­ty, and the erad­i­ca­tion of pover­ty and star­va­tion as well as a strong empha­sis on improv­ing the envi­ron­ment.

: eVTOLs will play a sig­nif­i­cant role.

: Web­site .

The impor­tance of this event is high­light­ed by America’s pres­ence. In Decem­ber, the U.S Con­gress approved and Pres­i­dent Biden signed, the 2023 Con­sol­i­dat­ed Appro­pri­a­tions Act, which includes USD25 mil­lion to sup­port the U.S pavil­ion. This is the first time there has been an Amer­i­can “appro­pri­a­tion for par­tic­i­pa­tion” since the 1988 World Fair in Bris­bane, Aus­tralia.

When Asia, in par­tic­u­lar Chi­na, is per­ceived as a grow­ing eco­nom­ic threat dur­ing reces­sion­ary times, this step is viewed by the U.S as an oppor­tu­ni­ty “to tell America’s sto­ry to world audi­ences num­ber­ing in their mil­lions.” It is a major sum of mon­ey when com­pared to the UK, for exam­ple, who has put aside just USD1.5 mil­lion for its own pavil­ion. This will be locat­ed in the “Sav­ing Lives” dis­trict with a theme “See Things Dif­fer­ent­ly – Tomor­row, Today.”

Please read an inter­view with Hiroyu­ki Ishige, the Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al of the Japan Asso­ci­a­tion for the 2025 World Expo.

Mean­while, Volo­copter has already placed a rotor in the Expo door with a recent dis­play of its VoloC­i­ty in Osa­ka pro­mot­ing the event (please watch video).


What makes the Expo so impor­tant for the fly­ing taxi indus­try is this will be the first time, a var­ied selec­tion of eVTOL air­craft are to be shown to the world. Unlike the Paris Olympics, nine months ear­li­er, where only Volo­copter, per­haps, will be fly­ing above the Paris skies as the lone exem­plar and even then, for prob­a­bly demon­stra­tion pur­pos­es only, the view amidst the present unbri­dled and unteth­ered ambi­tion of the eVTOL indus­try is that real­i­ty may final­ly catch up in April 2025.

For Osaka’s enthu­si­asm remains undi­min­ished. The city is hop­ing for air taxis to fly on eight dif­fer­ent routes lead­ing to 20 flights per hour or, over 6 months, using 8 hours a day as a guide, poten­tial­ly around 28,800 air taxi rides. These craft will con­nect Yumeshi­ma to air­ports and oth­er loca­tions in and around Osa­ka, Kobe and Kyoto. Poten­tial des­ti­na­tions include the city itself; the Osa­ka Bay area; Osa­ka Inter­na­tion­al Air­port; and Kan­sai Inter­na­tion­al.

Des­ti­na­tions in Kobe include the city and its Air­port. Oth­er poten­tial loca­tions are the close-by Awa­ji Island and the region sur­round­ing Kyoto and Ise-Shi­ma. Direct flights as well as scenic routes are in dis­cus­sion and fares are being deter­mined.

(The sound of screech­ing brakes) “C’mon Man!” All this in just two years time?!

The Min­istry of Land, Infra­struc­ture, Trans­port and Tourism plans to devel­op the reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work by no lat­er than 2024. Reg­u­la­tion is key to ful­ly cer­ti­fy­ing craft before they can com­mer­cial­ly fly, while Air Traf­fic sys­tems must be put in place to man­age the pro­posed busy air taxi routes in already crowd­ed skies shared by planes and heli­copters.

A Part of The Pro­posed Lay-Out of Osa­ka Expo (cred­it: Osa­ka Expo)

Mean­while, Park24, the largest car park oper­a­tor in Japan, is plan­ning to con­vert a park­ing facil­i­ty into a ver­ti­port in the west­ern Kan­sai region, close to Yumeshi­ma, as a tri­al. The com­pa­ny owns around 20,000 park­ing facil­i­ties. It will adhere to guide­lines drawn up in Europe and the U.S., with the aim of even­tu­al­ly expand­ing the busi­ness through­out Japan. The com­pa­ny is to work with UK-based ver­ti­port con­struc­tion com­pa­ny, Sky­ports. It is like­ly more of Park24 facil­i­ties will be trans­formed. This should spur oth­er oper­a­tors to com­pete and get involved.

The Kan­sai space, for exam­ple, will be able to accom­mo­date air­craft of var­i­ous sizes, from small ones that can take one or two pas­sen­gers to those that have a five-per­son capac­i­ty suit­able for longer flights. Euro­pean guide­lines stip­u­late that such bases must be at least twice the size of the air­craft they are cater­ing for in terms of both length and width for safe­ty and reg­u­la­to­ry rea­sons. Gen­er­al­ly, an area of approx­i­mate­ly 3,000 sq. meters is required.

The Japan­ese Min­istry of Land, Infra­struc­ture, Trans­port and Tourism is plan­ning for wide­spread use of eVTOLs by the ear­ly 2030s, where Osa­ka is a major step­ping stone towards this aspi­ra­tion.

One eVTOL com­pa­ny not men­tioned yet is Chi­na-based EHang. At present, there is no sign this autonomous 216 AAV air taxi has been invit­ed to fly at the Expo. Giv­en it is an ide­al craft to employ at the Osa­ka event, why is this? Geopol­i­tics, per­haps?

Mean­while, last year the Expo Asso­ci­a­tion asked for envi­ron­men­tal-friend­ly ideas to incor­po­rate into the event. There were 79 pro­pos­als and 12 were lat­er select­ed. Some are “upcy­cling projects”.

Plans include the com­pa­ny ACE Japan installing bench­es made from wood waste; Kyoto-based Colour­loop pro­vid­ing oth­er bench­es from dis­card­ed cloth­ing and tex­tiles; Marubeni will pro­vide table­ware pro­duced from food waste that can also be com­post­ed with left­over food after use; Zojirushi is to install a machine for eas­i­ly wash­ing per­son­al water bot­tles; while food close to its expi­ra­tion date will be turned into well-pre­sent­ed boxed lunch­es.

(cred­it: Osa­ka Expo)

Yet, the most dar­ing project are the “cir­cu­lar bio-toi­lets”, placed through­out the event, where human waste is to be re-used as agri­cul­tur­al fer­tilis­er for grow­ing Japan­ese crops. The com­pa­ny behind this nov­el project, W Tokyo, plans to turn the sewage from the expect­ed close to 30 mil­lion peo­ple attend­ing into a dynam­ic form of manure.

So, when you pur­chase a pack­et of Japan­ese-grown rice in the lat­ter half of 2025, be aware of its back­ground. It could now be a supe­ri­or prod­uct!

(Top image: Osa­ka Expo)

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