Less than a month after revealing it would conduct tests with experimental drones in a mountainous area of southern Japan, JAL - Japan Airlines (JL, Tokyo Haneda) has announced it will work with Fort Worth-based aerospace manufacturer Bell Textron and the general trading firm Sumitomo Corporation in the field of “flying cars”.

Market research exploring the infrastructure and noise countermeasures needed to deploy the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles being developed by Bell, plus JAL’s knowledge of aircraft safety, will take place in Japan and Asia. The target is commercialisation in the mid-2020s, the flag carrier said in a statement dated February 12.

eVTOL vehicles, which do not require a runway and have “excellent environmental performance”, are a likely mobility solution as populations become increasingly concentrated in urban areas, the statement announcing the new “business alliance” explained.

“JAL aims to build a next-generation air mobility operation platform, such as a flying car, utilising its know-how in safe and secure operation related to air movement,” it continued, adding that it “will resolve local issues in areas such as disaster response and medical care” and promote initiatives aimed at achieving the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

Founded in 1935 to design and build military aircraft, Bell Helicopter (TXH, Fort Worth Meacham) began helicopter research and development in 1941. The Bell 47 became the first helicopter in the world to be rated by a civil aviation authority. Sumitomo, meanwhile, has established new technologies in mobile services and works in the fields of infrastructure and transportation systems, among other things.