Self-driving cars? Electric vehicles? For Silicon Valley, these challenges are already solved, the train has left the station, the cat’s in the bag. What’s counting now is find the next big thing.
And one of those could be flying cars. At least three dozen startups and big companies – including Boeing or Blade – are attacking that problem. Some of them with a lot of money. And when you got the reputation as a founder from other successful technology startups, then it’s even easier.
Sebastian Thrun, former professor at Stanford AI Lab, winner of the DARPA Grand Challenge for autonomous cars, founder of Google’s self-driving division now known as Waymo, founder of online-university Udacity, is such a person. No surprise that with his reputation and connections could raise a lot of money for his new startup Kitty Hawk. One of the prominent investors is Google-founder Larry Page.
Kitty Hawk presented its first flying car, the Flyer. It’s a mashup of bathtub and drone. It fits one person, and has 10 rotors, five on each side.
The crafts weight is at 114 kilogram (250 pound), has a wing size of four meters, and is propelled by electric lithium polymer batteries. Maximum speed is at 30 km/h (20mph) for a duration of 20 minutes. The Flyer has two pontons like a water plane and is supposed to be operated over water areas in a height of 3 to four meters (10 feet). The Flyer does not require to have a pilot license, as it is categorized as ultralight aircraft and glider.
Several weeks ago Kitty Hawk announced a cooperation with New Zealand, where the first official certifications for licenses with the Kitty Hawk Flyer shall be issued. The aircraft could be used as airtaxi. The FAA in the U.S. is pretty strict about operating aircraft , and test flights so far have only been possible above lakes. The company has done more than 1,000 test flights so far over Lake Las Vegas.
Within an hour operators can learn how to fly the vehicle. That’s almost no time in comparison with the dozens of hours required to gain a pilot license. The Flyer is equipped with a joystick for controlling speed and height, but no other instruments, the rest is controlled by an onboard computer
The Flyer can already be pre-ordered, although a final price has not been mentioned.
This article has also been published in German.