Kitty Hawk Unveils VTOL Prototype


Kitty Hawk, the California company that has been working on a “flying car” funded by Alphabet CEO Larry Page, has released a video of its newest autonomous VTOL prototype, which is now flying in New Zealand. The electric-powered aircraft, dubbed “Cora,” is driven by 12 rotors mounted fore and aft of the wing, plus a propeller at the tail. After taking off vertically, it transitions to horizontal flight. Each of the rotors can operate independently, the company says, for redundant safety, and the aircraft will also be equipped with a ballistic parachute. Cora can cruise at about 80 knots for up to 54 nautical miles. The aircraft is being developed by Zephyr Airworks, Kitty Hawk’s partner in New Zealand. Flight testing and first commercial flights are planned to take place in New Zealand.

Cora will operate using “self-flying software combined with human oversight,” according to the company’s new website, “to make flying possible for people without training.” The aircraft will not be sold to the public, but will be “part of a service similar to an airline or ride share.” Cora looks very similar to the prototype the company was flying in 2014 (a video of that early version was released in December). “We think this is the logical next step in the evolution of transportation,” Fred Reid, CEO of Zephyr, says in the new video. The company declined to release a timetable for deployment, saying, “We are looking forward to being able to share our product with the New Zealand public when the time is right.” According to the website, more aircraft are in development.