A relatively new startup by the name of Kitty Hawk is showing off its all-electric flying ‘car’ for the first time today, almost a year since we first learned that Alphabet CEO Larry Page is one the startup’s biggest backers. While often referred to as a flying car, it’s obvious now that what Kitty Hawk has been working on for the last couple of years is more accurately described as a human-carrying drone…
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In its debut video footage, the Kitty Hawk Flyer can be seen hovering over a lake, seemingly being used more as a recreational hobby than a practical form of transportation — and that makes sense, considering it’s going to be a while before vehicles like this ever appear on roads or more accurately in the sky. But it seems the Flyer has already gotten over its first regulatory hurdle, approved under the “ultralight” category of FAA regulations to be used in “uncongested” areas.
Kitty Hawk says this first version of its all-electric flying vehicle is designed to fly over water:
The Kitty Hawk Flyer is a new, all-electric aircraft. It is safe, tested and legal to operate in the United States in uncongested areas under the Ultralight category of FAA regulations. We’ve designed our first version specifically to fly over water. You don’t need a pilot’s license and you’ll learn to fly it in minutes. We publicly revealed the working prototype in April 2017. The official Flyer will be available by the end of the year.
While the below video might give us a good of idea of how Kitty Hawk would like you to use its Flyer (at least for now), one person who actually piloted the prototype, Cimeron Morrissey, says that the final version is going to be a lot different. “It will have a very different design from the working prototype, but I’m betting the experience will be just as amazing,” she wrote in a Medium post describing her experience flying the vehicle.
The prototype looks and feels a lot like a flying motorcycle. You mount the seat and lean forward, just like you would on a bike. The controls are built into a set of handlebars and work similar to buttons and joysticks on a video game controller. It takes off and lands vertically, like a helicopter. But unlike a helicopter, the Flyer is 100% electric and powered by eight rotors.
The Flyer will be available by the end of the year. It will have a very different design from the working prototype, but I’m betting the experience will be just as amazing.
The startup’s chief executive, Sebastian Thrun, was the founder of Google’s X division and worked on the company’s driverless car system. And Larry Page, for his part, provided the following statement to the NYT: “We’ve all had dreams of flying effortlessly. I’m excited that one day very soon I’ll be able to climb onto my Kitty Hawk Flyer for a quick and easy personal flight.”
Kitty Hawk says that enthusiasts can pitch $100 right now to get a $2,000 discount on the flyer. And the company says those who do will “gain exclusive access to Kitty Hawk experiences and demonstrations where a select few will get the chance to ride the Flyer.” The Kitty Hawk Flyer is expected to be available before the end of the year.