Boeing, Kitty Hawk Rebrand Joint eVTOL Project

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A joint venture between Boeing and electric transportation solutions company Kitty Hawk Corporation aimed at developing Kitty Hawk’s autonomous, all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi, Cora, got a new name on Monday. Now called Wisk Aero, the Mountain View, California-based venture will be led by Gary Gysin, who previously held the position of CEO at Boeing subsidiary Liquid Robotics. As reported by AVweb, the companies first announced the partnership last June.

In keeping with the new brand, Kitty Hawk’s New Zealand branch, formerly called Zephyr Airworks, is now Wisk New Zealand. Wisk says Cora has currently logged more than 1,000 flights and the company is in the process of demonstrating its proof of concept in New Zealand. Kitty Hawk has also partnered with Air New Zealand to look into creating an air taxi service. Cora has a range of approximately 25 miles (40 km) with reserves and speed of about 86 knots (160 km/h).

In addition to Cora, Kitty Hawk has been working on the single-seat Flyer ultralight. Citing anonymous sources, a recent report by Forbes asserts the company is struggling with frequent technical issues with the ultralight including “fires involving batteries, electric motors and wiring.” According to Forbes, Kitty Hawk confirmed with them that it has returned buyer deposits and is no longer intending to sell the Flyer to individuals. Kitty Hawk announced a third project, a high-performance eVTOL called Heaviside, last October.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. “… the company is struggling with frequent technical issues with the ultralight including ‘fires involving batteries, electric motors and wiring.’ ”

    No. Say it isn’t so. Who would have guessed that vaporware is flamable?

  2. Electric VTOL is technically daunting enough, but then add autonomous flight and then add autonomous parachute emergency systems? All that effort and complexity to move 1 adult American male (and his one bag) maybe 25 miles? I’m not seeing a profitable business model here.

  3. Whether or not the concept is valid, it’s not fair for Forbes to report that the fires and such are gating issues. As an engineer, if during development something doesn’t break, catch fire, or blow up at least once, you’re not trying hard enough.

    • Thank you James. Nice to see a voice of reason here. R&D is a process. We would not have the internet today had it not been for the very expensive and often bug ridden research that ARPA sponsored during the 60s and 70s. Even after the internet was adopted by the private sector, it took hundreds of billions of dollars and lots of failed investment before we eventually saw actual business models work. Seems to me that way too many people forget that much of what we have today was the result of extensive R&D with negative ROIs and lots of mishaps, many of them fatal.

      Electric aviation will happen in our lifetimes and it will become so mainstream that we will wonder how we ever got along without it, but the path to get their is long and hard and has enough obstacles to overcome without all the naysayers who seem to be allergic to change.

      • Doing electric propulsion development in the air is not reasonable; it dilutes the effort away from actually developing power systems. Get a decent battery and power system in a ground vehicle first and THEN you can build a plane around it. “Electric aviation” does not mean it’s better than other systems until it actually IS better than other means to do a job.

  4. Product Name: Cora (prototype)
    Type of Machine: Air taxi
    Power: All-electric
    Capacity: Designed for two passengers.
    Altitude: Operates between 500 ft to 3000 ft above the ground (150 m to 900 m).
    Max Altitude: 10,000 ft (3.04 km)
    Wingspan: 36 feet (11 m)
    Vertical take-off and landing: Cora is powered by 12 independent lift fans, which enable her to take off and land vertically like a helicopter. Therefore, Cora has no need for a runway.
    Fixed-wing flight: On a single propeller
    Range: Initially about 62 miles (100 km)
    Flight Time (with 10-minute reserve): 19 minutes
    Speed: About 110 mph (180 kph)
    Passenger Cargo Capacity: 400 lbs (181 kg)
    Regulation: Cora has an experimental airworthiness certificate from both the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We are working with the CAA on further certification goals to bring an air taxi service to the commercial market.

    Imagine an airplane the size of a Cirrus SR-22 or Cessna 182 descending vertically in downtown Gotham City. That is the size of CORA. Since it is an airplane, all the foibles associated with flying a GA airplane is the same for CORA…except it can land or takeoff vertically. 400lb payload, a 36 foot diameter footprint, 12 sickle like exposed propellers, with twin booms, flying in and around skyscrapers for 19 minutes with a ten minute reserve…say in NYC Christmas Eve. How about 100 CORA’s with 200 people on-board doing their thing around Times Square on New Years Eve? What could possibly go wrong with this innovation? Where is that Ft Lauderdale HOA lawyer/mayor when you need him?

  5. Mark S. is right. Where is the economic viability to support this kind of (very expensive) venture? The aviation graveyard is littered with futuristic projects that sounded great but foundered due to lack of money. While this venture has huge monetary resources (i.e. Boeing) behind it, it is still a business that will have to produce an ROI. Boeing did not become the behemoth it is by losing money on every project or giving its technology away for free. Even with mass production, Cora is likely to cost between $500k to a million dollars each. How many people are willing to lay out $500+ for a 19 minute ride to somewhere?

    The other issue is the time it will take to recharge the batteries for a return flight. A taxi or an Uber can immediately turn around and catch another fare. Cora may have to sit for an hour before being able to make a return flight. Even if battery technology makes huge progress in the next few years, range and recharge time will still be a major disadvantage. This is a low-volume niche product at best. Perhaps Boeing is using this as a low-cost R&D project to keep them abreast of battery technology and the state of autonomous flight capabilities – mainly because Airbus is doing the same.