Zee Aero Flies A New VTOL (Updated)
Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Kitty Hawk, showed a clip on CNN last week that shows an unmanned VTOL taking off vertically from a runway, transitioning to horizontal flight at about 60 MPH and then landing vertically. Fareed Zakaria, host of the “The Next Big Idea” show, says the video hadn’t previously been shared with the public. The video is tagged with a NASA/Zee Aero logo. Fred Reid, a spokesman for Zee Aero, told AVweb in an email last week, “We prefer not to disclose further details beyond what Sebastian said in the interview.” Thrun says in the interview that since the clip was made, “We’ve made a lot of progress,” but he doesn’t say when the video was shot.
NASA public affairs officer J.D. Harrington told AVweb in an email he had no information about the flight, despite the NASA tag on the video. “NASA is not involved in designing or manufacturing flying cars,” he said. “NASA is working on UTM, an air traffic management system for small drones that could possibly be scaled to include these larger aircraft.” Both Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk are headquartered in California and owned by Larry Page, a co-founder of Google. Zee Aero is headed by Ilan Kroo. Page has reportedly invested $100 million in the two companies. The flying clip is about two minutes into the interview.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, a spokesperson from Zee Aero contacted AVweb to clarify some facts about the interview. The video shown on CNN was shot by NASA at Edwards Air Force Base in February 2014, as part of the Space Act Program with NASA, the spokesperson said, and this was its first public showing. A CNN spokesperson confirmed that the interview with Thrun first ran on December 24, although it had been scheduled to air in September, as reported in an earlier version of this story. Also, Ilan Kroo is no longer the head of Zee Aero, that position is held by Eric Allison.