Larry Page’s Air Taxi Startup Kittyhawk Is Closing • The Register

“If anyone can do this, we can,” babbles air taxi startup Kittyhawk’s homepage, which may need an update now that the company has announced it will be ceasing operations.

In a brief note to Twitter Yesterday it said: “We have made the decision to discontinue Kittyhawk. We are still working out the details of what comes next.”

The company is relevant to the dream of the “flying car” insofar as it was Founded in 2010 by computer scientist Sebastian Thrun, who also launched the research and development team of Google X and the Google project for self-driving cars, now known as Waymo. Google co-founder Larry Page funded the concept directly.

Kittyhawk’s last publicly unveiled all-electric VTOL aircraft was able to take off, fly, and land fully autonomously “on a small landing pad just slightly larger than its wingspan.”

“It’s ultra-quiet and battery-efficient, flies hundreds of miles on a single charge, and is nearly inaudible within 30 seconds of takeoff.” says the company’s website.

“Inspired by this, we are now working on a next-generation commercial design. Our ambitions for next-generation aircraft are even bolder. We’re reinventing the future of aviation by applying modern technology to traditional aviation principles to reinvent advanced air mobility. We build flying vehicles that are affordable, autonomous and ubiquitous.”

Apparently those plans are now on hold. Kittyhawk’s first airliner could only carry one passenger, who was monitored by a ground crew, which the company played on a positive note, saying “no pooling with strangers.” It targeted air travel at $1 a mile, cheaper than calling Uber.

However, Kittyhawk was in a joint venture with Boeing called Wisk Aero, which is also trying to launch an air taxi that can carry up to four passengers. The aviation giant has invested $450 million in the venture.

A Boeing spokesman said Bloomberg: “Kittyhawk’s decision to cease operations does not change Boeing’s commitment to Wisk. We are proud to be a founding member of Wisk Aero and excited to see the work they are doing to drive innovation and sustainability in the future of electric air travel.”

It could be that Kittyhawk backers ultimately saw Wisk, where the former company’s technology lives on, as a better choice.

The air taxi is a tough nut to crack. Numerous companies are trying – Archer Aviation, Beta Technologies, Eve Urban Air Mobility, Joby aviationand Vertical Aerospace to name a few – but as with any aircraft, regulators need to be involved.

Wisk’s Cora” established the world novelty [Federal Aviation Authority] Certification basis for remotely piloted passenger aircraft” in 2018, although next-generation vehicles have yet to be approved.

The infrastructure is also proving to be a blind spot. Air taxis, especially those that purport to be autonomous, need to be integrated into existing air traffic and have dedicated landing pads close to the passenger’s destination.

What’s the point when your zero-emission, electric VTOL taxi lands 70 miles from your desired destination? You would then need a regular taxi, and god forbid it runs on fossil fuels. ® Larry Page’s Air Taxi Startup Kittyhawk Is Closing • The Register

Laura Coffey

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