Another discussion on KittyHawk here:
Contrary to almost every comment here so far, this is both innovative and energy efficient.
Let's talk energy efficiency first. Once it's up in the air, it's has a similar profile to a normal single engine airplane. A Cirrus SR22 can go 1,200 miles on 80 gallons of gas. That's roughly speaking 15 miles per gallon - better than many pickup trucks or large SUVs. And that's while going 180 mph. Slower is more fuel efficient.
This aircraft is definitely going to make noise on takeoff and landing, but it's not going to make much noise while cruising.
The Dodecacopter/regular aircraft hybrid solves a lot of problems. Once it is in cruise mode, it is as safe as a regular small aircraft. Importantly, unlike a quadcopter, it does not crash immediately on loss of engine power - it can glide to a landing somewhere, or use a parachute, or land with its Dodecacopter rotors.
Unlike a rotor craft, this aircraft is very energy efficient while cruising.
The Dodecacopter side lets it take off and land in even more places than a helicopter. It looks like it has redundancy for any two rotors/motors to go out. If this happens on takeoff, you fly to an airport to land. If this happens on landing, you leave the aircraft on the ground until someone comes and fixes you. You skip all the transmission and cyclic complexity of a helicopter. This is going to cost a whole lot less to maintain than a helicopter.
In short, this has potential to be way better than either a helicopter or a small airplane. Even ignoring the air-taxi business, there's a market for this aircraft.
So let's flip to the business side. An easy target for making these at scale would be $500,000 per aircraft. (Might be able to half that, but lets be conservative). Operating costs at scale, max $100/hr, could be one quarter that.
On the revenue side, this would replace a two hour trip across a city in traffic with a fifteen minute flight. Unless you've flow small aircraft before it's hard to appreciate just how much faster it is not to use roads. There's definitely going to be some market for this - that's worth money.
A lot of negative comments here. I must say I'm impressed and I applaud these people for building an innovative working thing and taking it to production. No pilot - mind blown.
And sure, this might not be the solution to humanity's overall mobility, but heck I can see it being useful in many ways.
Can anyone chime in how this aircraft is so energy efficient? It seems like the props on the wing will give a ridiculous amount of drag. Also, one of the key requirements for an energy efficient rear prop plane is super laminar air going to through the rear prop for efficient thrust. The wing design seems to remove this advantage.
Edit: Also, I thought smaller props for vertical flight is significantly less efficient than one large prop like a helicopter?
That being said, I always had a soft spot for aircraft startup after working at one in my younger days. Pretty interesting to see how this ends up especially with Sebastian Thrun on the team.
From an aircraft design perspective, it is an interesting choice.
I can't help think that this design, with dedicated lift engines is just not very mass efficient. The pylons and the twelve motors also add a lot of drag in horizontal flight, even though they've taken steps to reduce it.
As of today, if I was designing an air taxi from scratch, I'd go with a tail-sitting VTOL, like the E-flite X-VERT:
For a full-sized aircraft, since you can't vary rotor speed very quickly for large motors, you'd need to add variable pitch propellers. The passengers would sit in a pod which rotates to keep them level during all flight modes.
And, as other commenters have mentioned, a ballisticly-deployed parachute for safety. And maybe emergency landing skids for a horizontal landing if needed.
I know that electric flight is part of the selling point of this design, but I'd still prefer to use fossil fuel for the energy density.
I'd love to try it out if it goes into production!
Small planes have had parachutes for quite some time  now and have saved many lives. Why on earth would this company put people up into the air unmanned without one? [Personally, if a parachute was onboard I wouldn't mind jumping into one.]
They claim that it is quiet, but there is no audio to give any sense of that. I would want to hear two people having a conversation while it takes off nearby.
For those who are not aware, the kittyhawk is the place where wright brothers tested and developed their plane.
I'm very skeptical on the energy expenditure here, this does seem to be a fairly energy intensive mode of transport, but I assume the market would balance the price accordingly.
It certainly doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would become a mainstream mode of transport without a big change in the energy market.
I had to check it's not April 1st. Especially after watching the youtube video. I'm still skeptical that it won't turn out to be an april fools prank.
I think it's perfect for transportation. A share model could really exist with it, less infrastructure.
If it becomes popular, entire cities could change how they look ( roof = taxi, roads for bicycles and deliveries on the roof)
This will be great for millionaire 1% Googlers to fly to work from Monterey.
I don't like that they're touting no emissions. Electricity has to be generated and in the US that's mainly coal. Hybrid vehicles are closer to having it right where running the car charges it and you can get by burning significantly less fuel. Strictly electrical has not been shown to be an energy saver or a flag bearer of emissions reduction. In many cases so far it has been a cause of more pollution than modern engines using oil.
What's the long pointy bit that sticks out from the nose for?
I love it. Can’t wait to see the first batch of production reviews from customers.
Also on energy usage:
Why does it matter how much electrical energy it uses? We know how to harness a near infinite amount.
My understanding is that a larger, slower turning propeller is more efficient than a smaller, faster propeller. If so, why do drone companies/small aircraft companies have been pushing the more and smaller propellers model? Better aircraft control? Optimizing for range and battery life doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
That video is so cringy.
It seems the vertical take off blades become dead weight and air resistance in horizontal flight. Could they auto-rotate instead, aiding lift? Similar to how an auto gyro works. The wings would be the primary lift providers but why not take advantage of the vertical blades as well?
> No traffic lights
? only as long as there are just a few flying around. Once there are some with crossing routes you will need air traffic city rules as well.
I am really interested to see how that would pan out.
I just gave a talk on flying cars. It turns out technical difficulty is not the reason we don't have flying cars, or self-driving cars.
Innovation is one way new technologies can change the world. For example, the reason we have skyscrapers is due to the elevator brake.
Elevators have existed in some form or another for over 2,000 years. But without the modern innovation of the elevator brake, nobody felt safe being hoisted by a rope up into the air, where a fall could kill you. And nobody looked forward to walking dozens of flights of stairs. A new combination of a spring, gravity, and a ratchet-and-pawl (all existing for over 2,000 years, the same as the elevator itself) gave humans the feeling of safely moving up and down in space that they didn't have before.
But innovation is not a guarantee of success. Electric cars have existed for 190 years. Their innovation, combined with the development of modern batteries, made them the most popular car by the beginning of the 20th century. But two decades later they disappeared, when cheaper, more convenient, more useful gas cars became available. It took another 60 years to develop a new production EV.
In comparison to land-based vehicles, drones are used to fly automated GPS-coordinated routes around the world every day. There are about 31.7 Million airplane flights over the USA every year. And even though 37,000 people die in car crashes every year, only 399 people died in air crashes in 2017 (world wide!). Not only are flying vehicles clearly safer than driving, we can very reliably coordinate flying vehicles.
So why don't we have automated flying cars? Nobody decided to build them. Until startups like this one do the actual hard, long-term, complicated work to coordinate all the necessary pieces, and can figure out how to make it both convenient and cost-effective, it just doesn't happen. And the same is true of self-driving cars.
Until someone decides to coordinate all the complicated parts to get it working, it doesn't exist. Sometimes this takes convincing society to make compromises - like, you don't get the "freedom" of piloting your own vehicle, unless you are very very well trained to do so. And sometimes it just takes lots of elbow grease. Personally, I think we need more of the former than the latter. But I'm glad this company is taking on both challenges.
Firstly, I commend them for getting the vision started more than anyone else I’ve seen. It’s a V1 commercial product and they seem to have the resources to iterate. That being said, it’s not a very aesthetic craft. Sadly, they didn’t figure out how not to have wings. It’s like they took a Cessna/Piper and threw on 6 electric motors on each wing and a big battery pack and called it a flying car. Their former hovercraft product was much cooler!
Once this becomes practical with regulations worked out, there will likely be more people who choose to live in Napa Valley, Stockton, or Sacramento and commute to San Francisco or Palo Alto.
Real estate prices in those places might be affected a bit.
The same with New Jersey and Manhattan. What are some other areas that this might be the case?
Once the direction becomes clearer, perhaps someone should start an REIT with a focus on arbitraging transportation revolution.
Ummm, are there flight corridors defined for low flying aircraft? You can't just fly in a straight line everywhere. You can't just fly over a densely populated area and how do you avoid crashing into other flying taxis?
You read the comments and you think everybody gets it, but then nobody gets it.
Google must be too early.
Anyone know how much this costs per mile?
solutions for the .01%
What's the utility of using electric motors over turboprops, etc? Is it just the simplicity factor?
Another flying car company. Many have tried. Before doing uber-air, first perfect the flying car as an aircraft. That hasnt happened. Then we can talk about the robot at the controls or the app that will summon it.
Get all the air safety stuff done. Biuld a few thousand non-experimentals. Have people actually fly these things daily. Then worry about disrupting the car market.
All I can think about is Clifford Simak's "City."
Finally we are getting flying cars instead of 140 characters.
I must say I'm against this development. First of all, even if electric, this is certainly a very inefficient way of transportation that will 'waste' a lot of energy to transport maybe 4 people.
The resulting price of this technology will result in the 99% stuck on the ground while the only te 1% can afford the fare.
And even if it becomes a regular mode of transportation, do you really want these planes to fly over your apartment/house every few minutes? They might be more quiet than a Cessna but they wll certainly still be disturbing
Holy sheep, new zealand looks beautiful
Am I the only one who finds it endlessly annoying to refer to anything that's primarily (or exclusively) powered by a battery as "green" or "emissions free" or "pollution free" or anything else?
What about the energy to manufacture, ship, assemble, design, test (or clean up when it fails), etc. That all takes energy and most of that energy probably comes from coal or some other environmental nightmare resource.
KittyHawk is not an Alphabet startup. It is no affiliated with Alphabet. The title is misleading.
Finally the 21st century gives us flying cars, and all that happens is people complain about it.
Interesting that they'd release this video the same day a helicopter crash featured prominently in the news.