Aircraft

Kitty Hawk's new electric aircraft is quieter than a dishwasher

Kitty Hawk's new electric airc...
The Heaviside follows in the footsteps of the Flyer, which emerged in 2017, and last year’s 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 last year’s Cora, a two-seat electric aircraft designed with short trips in mind
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Kitty Hawk, the aviation startup backed by Google co-founder Larry Page and Boeing, has today lifted the lid on another electrically powered aircraft, the third in its lineup
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Kitty Hawk, the aviation startup backed by Google co-founder Larry Page and Boeing, has today lifted the lid on another electrically powered aircraft, the third in its lineup
The Heaviside follows in the footsteps of the Flyer, which emerged in 2017, and last year’s Cora, a two-seat electric aircraft designed with short trips in mind
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The Heaviside follows in the footsteps of the Flyer, which emerged in 2017, and last year’s Cora, a two-seat electric aircraft designed with short trips in mind
The sleek orange and charcoal Heaviside features six rotors fixed to the wings and another pair mounted alongside the cabin
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The sleek orange and charcoal Heaviside features six rotors fixed to the wings and another pair mounted alongside the cabin

Kitty Hawk, the aviation startup backed by Google co-founder Larry Page and Boeing, has today lifted the lid on another electrically-powered aircraft, the third in its lineup. Details are scarce on the technical capabilities of the newly announced Heaviside, but the company is very keen to emphasize how little noise it makes during flight.

The Heaviside follows in the footsteps of the Flyer, which emerged in 2017, and last year’s Cora, a two-seat electric aircraft designed with short trips in mind. Like the Flyer, Kitty Hawk’s newest aircraft is a single seater but appears far more passenger-ready than that earlier prototype, which amounted to rotors fixed to an open-air pipe structure and a pair of pontoons for landing and taking off on water.

The sleek orange and charcoal Heaviside features six rotors fixed to the wings and another pair mounted alongside the cabin, which allow it to take off and land vertically before shifting to horizontal flight, negating the need for a runway. Kitty Hawk says that the aircraft is capable of traveling from San Francisco to San Jose in 15 minutes, a distance of around 30 miles (48 km), which would make for an average speed of 120 mph (192 km/h).

The sleek orange and charcoal Heaviside features six rotors fixed to the wings and another pair mounted alongside the cabin
The sleek orange and charcoal Heaviside features six rotors fixed to the wings and another pair mounted alongside the cabin

According to Techcrunch, who spent some time with the vehicle at Kitty Hawk’s development facility, the wings span 20 ft (6 m) and the aircraft can be flown both manually and autonomously. The site also reports that it can cover 100 mi (160 km) on each charge.

Kitty Hawk describes Heaviside as exceedingly quiet, and really tries to drive the point home in the limited materials it has shared on the project so far. In a video showing Heaviside in action, the company claims it operates at a volume of 38 decibels when at 1,500 ft (457 m), whereas a helicopter outputs 80 decibels from the same altitude.

For the sake of comparison, vacuum cleaners in action might output 70 or 80 decibels, while the quietest dishwashers operate at around 40. As we can see there is a big difference, and the sound issue around flying taxis is one that does get lost in the noise, so to speak.

If you’ve ever been in the presence of a small drone as it takes off, you’ll be familiar with the distinctive whirring as the rotors whip it into action. Now imagine these vehicles scaled up to carry humans, constantly taking off and landing around offices, schools, malls and hospitals.

This noisy vision of future cities is what motivated Kitty Hawk to embark on Project Heaviside, though it hasn’t detailed any plans for commercial production just yet. You can see it in action in the video below.

Project Heaviside by Kitty Hawk

Source: Kitty Hawk via TechCrunch

11 comments
Fritz
Without being aircraft expert the KH design looks trustable.
Excalibur2811
How do they manage to make it so quiet? Is it a feature of the propeller blades, such as material used or angle of attack, or perhaps a lower number of revolutions but spanning many engines that does it?
buzzclick
When it's flying along, the props don't need to be spinning as fast. When it's doing vertical take off and landing, Heaviside (weird name) is making as much noise as all those 8 rotors can make to keep it hovering. It's an improvement.
ei3io
One big air beater beat has greater volume low pitch penetration than many small out of sound synch beats beating at higher pitch. The future will be no air beaters using just elastic charge propulsion.
vince
Imagine being able to have an airport anywhere within a city or suburb because the planes are so quiet you don't even know there there. And pollution free. This is the future of flight and for all flights under 1,000 miles they will be electric. Slower yes but quiet and pollution free. And far safer. If they crash they won't burst into flames making survivorship more possible.
Cryptonoetic
Somebody better wake up Limbaugh who, today, vehemently insisted all-electric aircraft large enough to ferry humans was a physical impossibility.
Hellem
Yes interesting progress when coupled with the battery advances (kg/kWh) that are in development. Now one problem with upscaling is noise: biggest part of big rotor or propellers is their tips running at above sonic speeds. Another R&D topic which needs to be resolved.
warren52nz
Is it just me or did that look like a model when it landed at the end? It seemed small the way it just "plopped" onto the ground. That would be a pretty heavy landing for a full size aircraft.
MD
Total bollocks of a comparison, a 6kg model compared to a helicopter for noise output... At the size of this craft, anything can fly for 10 or 20 minutes. I love and work with VTOL and fixed wing aircraft... Any professional in the field has to imagine the impossible and implausible while living in the tedious present. The general public OTOH laps it all up.
ljaques
If they can do the 38dB on vertical, they'll sell a million of them quickly. NOT adding to noise is a key point in cities. Best of luck, Heaviside!