One year ago, we met for the first time the secret of the founder of the Google program, Larry Page, Kitty Hawk: a fully electric stationary bicycle designed to fly specifically over water. This week, the company released an updated version of its recreational aircraft, the Flyer. And it's quite better than the original concept.
The Flyer weighs 250 pounds and has 10 battery powered thrusters and two joysticks. It looks something like a sleigh mounted on a pair of pontoons surrounded by a lot of drone rotors, so, you know, totally safe, I'm sure. It is not designed to fly through the clouds as if it were George Jetson, with a maximum elevation of 10 feet and a maximum speed (limited by the flight control system) of 20 mph. Kitty Hawk has kept the pontoons for water landings, but got rid of the protection network of the original prototype.
The company will not say when the Flyer will go on sale, what the final price will be, or if they have already received an order. Those who want to join the Founders Series can complete an online form and join a waiting list. One of the questions is whether potential customers intend to fly the plane if they obtain it.
Another sign that Kitty Hawk is in full commercialization mode: she invited the popular YouTuber Casey Neistat to visit her test facility in Nevada. Neistat sat for two hours of training before being allowed to fly one of the vehicles (which he said he would do in a later video). Two hours seems to be in conflict with last year's Kitty Hawk's original promise that potential customers could learn to fly "in minutes," but honestly, the more you train the better to challenge the laws of gravity.
The Flyer is not Kitty The only Hawk product. He is also working on the Cora, a two-seat electric airplane with 13 rotors that can take off and land vertically and is designed for an air taxi service. The company recently reached an agreement with the New Zealand government to test autonomous air taxis for official certification in the country.
At least 19 other companies are developing air taxi plans. These include manufacturers of legacy aircraft such as Boeing and Airbus, and tour giants such as Uber. That company recently held its second annual Elevate conference and has made significant progress in partnering with a handful of aircraft manufacturers, real estate firms and regulators to improve their chances of developing a fully functional and on-demand flying taxi service.
the cars still face important obstacles. Experts suggest that engineering and regulatory hurdles can prevent vertical electric takeoff and aircraft landing from taking off in a significant way. In short, there are no electric planes, or even hybrid gas and electric aircraft, in commercial operation today. Flying requires an incredible amount of energy, and current battery technology simply does not offer the power-to-weight ratio necessary to achieve liftoff. Most experts predict that it will be years, if not decades, before technology reaches its goal.
An experimental aircraft powered by electric motors crashed in Hungary recently, killing its pilot and its passenger. Siemens, the German manufacturer that built the engines, is investigating the cause. The Magnus eFusion single-engine plane crashed shortly after takeoff at an airfield near Budapest on May 31.