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Google co-founder’s Kitty Hawk company scraps one of its flying-car projects

Kitty Hawk is done with its Flyer single-person flying machine, saying this week that it’s learned all it can from the project.

Led by Google co-founder Larry Page and Sebastian Thrun, who helped to launch Google’s autonomous car unit (now Waymo), the California-based company said it will turn its attention to developing its more advanced — and more powerful — Heaviside electric aircraft.

Flyer first hit our radar in 2017, around the time that the idea of small “flying cars” for urban transportation really began to gain traction.

The original machine was an ultralight electric-powered single-seater that looked a lot like a giant drone. In 2018, Kitty Hawk unveiled an all-new design for the Flyer, which Digital Trends described at the time as “a cross between a drone, an F1 car, and a sea plane.”

The team prided itself on creating an aircraft that was so simple to operate that it could be flown with almost no training.

“We wanted to bring the ease of flying drones to the world of aircraft,” the company said in a post on its website this week. “We wanted to show the world how easy it is to become a pilot, and to be safe at piloting aircraft.”

It said that in its lifetime, more than 75 people flew Flyer, with each one receiving less than two hours of training, and overall it conducted more than 25,000 successful flights, both crewed and uncrewed.

The company said it was proud to have built the first electric-powered vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that could be flown by non-pilots, but that it had now taken the project as far as it could go.

“We have learned what we needed from it — things like vehicle design and testing, manufacturing aircraft, and most of all, how humans would experience eVTOL,” the company said.

Besides Heaviside, which Kitty Hawk says is 100 times quieter than a helicopter, the company has also been working on another electric aircraft called Cora, an autonomous two-seater with 12 wing-mounted rotors for VTOL, and a large pusher prop that means it can also fly like a regular airplane.

In 2019, Kitty Hawk inked a deal with Boeing that the aerospace giant said would help to “advance safe urban air mobility.” It added that the collaboration would combine the innovation of Kitty Hawk’s team with Boeing’s scale and aerospace expertise, giving the aircraft manufacturer access to a potentially lucrative market.

Check out the amazing designs from some of the other companies also in the game.

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Trevor Mogg
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