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