Aircraft

Kitty Hawk shuts down its Flyer eVTOL program

Kitty Hawk shuts down its Flye...
Kitty Hawk's Flyer program is being shut down after some 25,000 successful flights
Kitty Hawk's Flyer program is being shut down after some 25,000 successful flights
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Kitty Hawk's Flyer program is being shut down after some 25,000 successful flights
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Kitty Hawk's Flyer program is being shut down after some 25,000 successful flights

Larry Page and Sebastian Thrun's personal flying carpet project has been grounded, as the Kitty Hawk company turns its attention to a larger, faster, longer range aircraft with better commercial potential in the emerging eVTOL air taxi market.

The Flyer was to be the hooligan sports car of the eVTOL world, a single-seater manned multirotor with pontoon floats for aquatic vertical takeoff and landing. It looked schmick, it flew for up to 20 minutes on a charge, and it'd do around 20 mph (32 km/h), swooping and banking over the water up to a limited altitude of around 10 ft (3 m).

Certainly, the airframe could take a person much higher or fly over land, but if you can't work out why that's a bad idea at this early stage, perhaps this video will clarify things.

Best of all, it was incredibly easy to fly, no harder than a DJI Phantom drone. GPS-stabilized and aided by banks of inertial sensors, it required no more than a couple of hours of training to get you in the air. As a Part 103 ultra-lightweight under FAA regulations, you didn't need a license to fly it provided you stayed away from certain areas. Kitty Hawk once trained 50 people to fly it in a single day.

Kitty Hawk Flyer: limited to an altitude of 10 feet
Kitty Hawk Flyer: limited to an altitude of 10 feet

111 of these little fun machines were built, and they made over 25,000 successful flights. We're certain every one of the many unlicensed folk that got to fly one will remember that experience until the day they die. The company accepted pre-orders on them as leisure toys and experience machines.

But it was not to be. In a blog post last week, Alex Roetter, President of Flyer, and Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Kitty Hawk, announced the closure of the project.

It was always going to be tough to make a business out of a small sports flyer like this one. Impractical and illegal for most practical use cases, it was destined to be relegated to a service life of skimming over lakes. It's hard to pay for an aircraft development program on the back of cheap experience tickets and the odd rich buyer.

The opportunity for eVTOLs in the coming decades is clear: get in on the urban air taxi market. Quieter, simpler and vastly cheaper than helicopters, eVTOLs are expected to become a serious three-dimensional commuting option within this decade, hoisting you far above congested traffic and depositing you at 'vertiports' dotted around cities. A healthy air taxi service has a genuine chance to become the kind of healthy revenue stream that could keep these companies afloat.

The Heaviside follows in the footsteps of the Flyer, which emerged in 2017, and the Cora, a two-seat electric aircraft designed with short trips in mind
The Heaviside follows in the footsteps of the Flyer, which emerged in 2017, and the Cora, a two-seat electric aircraft designed with short trips in mind

The company's other small eVTOL, the 2-seat Cora aircraft, has been spun off into its own company for taxi service trials in New Zealand, and thus Kitty Hawk's attention turns to its other remaining project, which is known as Heaviside. Another single-seater, Heaviside is built much more like an airplane, and combines its vertical takeoff and landing capabilities with winged cruise capabilities thanks to eight tilting rotors.

As a platform, it's capable of much higher speeds and altitudes, and longer ranges than the Flyer, and it's not a big stretch to envision it being upgraded to carry two or more passengers in subsequent iterations. It's certainly much closer to what the rest of the leading contenders are starting to look like.

So farewell, little Flyer, we're certain there'll be more of these single-seat fun-oriented aircraft in the coming years, what with literally hundreds of companies working on elbowing their way into the manned multirotor market, but the Flyer was the first one up and running and offering flights to unlicensed pilots, and that is a significant place in history. Enjoy a video below.

#firsttimeFlyer reactions | Dave Clark | Kitty Hawk

Source: Kitty Hawk

7 comments
christopher
Exactly what I've predicted. The blindingly obvious inescapable fact is that there is no universe where any authority is going to let you drive vehicles of death over populous areas. Go watch some youtube videos of drone failures, and now think how awesome it would be if those drones were over your head, weighed hundreds of KG's, ran insecure software written by idiots, and were driven by more idiots.
RobWoods
Yes, I agree with christopher, and it never fails that everytiime we hear of a new personal flyer developed for the masses, it inevitably disappears and we never hear anymore of these things again!
Towerman
25 000 successful flights in your face ! Nothing absolutely NOTHING will even try as to make the slightest dent in this Mammoth revolution that is in the early stages of unfolding right NOW
Towerman
@christopher What an Utterly mindless comment, the Kitty hawk did NOT crash, it has 25000 successful flights. READ and COMPREHEND mate, Multicopters WILL fly over YOUR head safe and sound, and there's absolutely NOTHING, ZERO that will stop this revolution coming !
Arcticshade
Right on Towerman These comments at the top is of people with absolutely no understanding nor ability to comprehend the safety of these craft. Nothing will stop this from becoming mainstream, as sure as the suin will rise tomorrow, as sure will multicopter craft become everyday life ! !

@Christopher, Really ????? So how did they authorize a 589 TON Airbus to fly over your head everyday ?? To date there have been MANY thousands upon thousands KILLED in aircraft accidents, both in the air AND on the ground, YET they still fly ! ! ! You argument is a joke !
JeffK
People do things they love every day that seem insanely dangerous to me (and I worked on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise during the Vietnam war) and some of them die, every day. One of my closest friends from elementary school on, a man whose research would likely be featured in New Atlas, was killed skydiving during his first year of grad school, a couple months after my enlistment ended. He was an expert with hundreds of jumps and he did everything right; it happens. One of our mutual friends died of brain cancer a couple of decades later; it happens sooner or later to all of us. Without the risk takers humanity would still be living a hand to mouth, hunter gatherer life style and dying of old age at 35. I would love one of these machines if I had that kind of disposable income though the idea of jumping out of a perfectly serviceable airplane for sport scares the dickens out of me.
michael_dowling
"25 000 successful flights in your face ! Nothing absolutely NOTHING will even try as to make the slightest dent in this Mammoth revolution that is in the early stages of unfolding right NOW" I agree,but one thing still bothers me: these things are damn loud for electric aircraft! I don't want them cruising over my roof early Sunday morning,waking me and the missus.